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Amazing Kids! of the Month

Amazing Kids! is proud to highlight the Amazing Kids! of the Month!

Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things.  We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements. 


Amazing Kids! of the Month for June, 2003: 
Prudential Spirit of Community Winners, U.S.A!
 
The 2003 National Honorees of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 


Quotes of the Month: 

"Because I live with diabetes, I understand the daily struggles of living with a chronic illness," Clare said. "I also understand how easy it can be to lose hope. I decided not to be drawn down by this, but to do something positive about it."

Gideon Sofer, 18, 
Highland Park, New Jersey

 "No matter what situation you are in, you can always help make things better for others."

Sasha Bowers, 14
Columbus, Ohio

"It seems that when you help in some small way, it affects lots of other people and things.  It just expands in a circle."

Chas Duff, 14
Chatsworth, California


This month's Amazing Kids! of the Month winners are the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 2003 National Honorees. Each of the amazing middle and high school students honored have done exemplary community service work.

Read each of their amazing stories below and who knows?  You might get inspired to start your own community service project!

And don't forget, if you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it!  Teachers are invited to nominate their entire classroom and the amazing projects they are working on too!  Simply complete a nomination form for an Amazing Kid! of the Month award, or email us! 


Table of Contents 

About the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 
National High School Honorees
National Middle School Honorees
For More Information
Related Links



About the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
 

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is an awards program which recognizes outstanding community service by middle school and high school students across the United States.  The program, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principles (NASSP).
 

This year's ten National winners, ranging in age from 10 to 18, each received $5,000, an engraved gold medallion and a crystal trophy for their schools! In addition, a total of $250,000 in toys, clothing and other juvenile products has been donated in their names to needy children in their local areas by Kids in Distressed Situations, Inc., the national charity of the children's apparel and products industry. 

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National High School Honorees
(The following information has been reprinted with permission from the Prudential website.)
 
Laura Greer, 17 
Miami, Florida 

Laura Greer, 17, of Miami, Florida, a senior at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, researched and wrote "The Foster Care Guide for Kids," a book designed to answer the many questions that children have about their foster care experiences. While volunteering at a local shelter for abused children, Laura discovered that many of the kids didn't understand what was happening to them. "I tried to gently explain their situation," she said, "but I knew my explanations weren't enough." 

Laura's search for a suitable children's book or pamphlet explaining foster care turned up nothing, so she decided to create her own. After spending many hours reading through materials written for adults, attending foster parent training courses, talking to foster parents and interviewing foster children, Laura wrote a 40-page book in both English and Spanish. She also wrote letters to 350 people in her community, which brought in $35,000 in donations to cover printing and distribution costs. Laura's book has been approved by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and distributed to numerous foster care providers and child welfare organizations. In addition, the Miami-Dade County Public School System has distributed copies to school psychologists, social workers and counselors throughout the district.


Christepher Romero, 17 Phoenix, Arizona

Christepher Romero, 17, of Phoenix, Arizona, a junior at Sunnyslope High School, survived a rough childhood in an inner-city neighborhood and went on to develop a program that is now helping to keep other at-risk teens in his old school away from crime and drugs. When he was young, Chris's mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and an inability to care for her children. Chris was recruited by neighborhood gangs, but was ultimately "saved" by a school counselor who later adopted him. In his new family, Chris began to think of the kids in his old neighborhood who did not have the opportunities he now enjoys. "I decided to do something to help them and honor my parents," he said. 

He approached a police officer working at his former school and became a volunteer mentor. He soon put together a plan to teach kids swimming and soccer, conduct CPR and nutrition classes, and organize neighborhood "clean-ups. Other students have since signed on to help Chris, and his program - called "School Buddies" - now also offers after-school tutoring and recreation activities during school breaks. Chris plans to start a foundation soon - named after his adoptive parents - to provide college scholarships to children from his old neighborhood.


Clare Rosenfeld, 16 Eugene, Oregon

Clare Rosenfeld, 16, of Eugene, Oregon, a junior at South Eugene High School, is a national leader in raising public awareness of diabetes, and a tireless advocate for diabetic young people. "Because I live with diabetes, I understand the daily struggles of living with a chronic illness," Clare said. "I also understand how easy it can be to lose hope. I decided not to be drawn down by this, but to do something positive about it." 

After mentoring other young people with diabetes, Clare realized that if they all banded together, they could accomplish a great deal. She wrote the CEO of the American Diabetes Association proposing a youth advocacy program and then, once it was established, served as the association's first National Youth Advocate. She traveled extensively for public speaking engagements, raised $30,000 for cure research, testified before Congress, developed a website, and corresponded with hundreds of newly diagnosed children and teens. Last year, she took her efforts to the international level, founding International Diabetes Youth Ambassadors to educate, inspire and support young diabetics around the world. Her new organization already has close to 100 ambassadors in 18 countries.


Ashley Shuyler, 18 Golden, Colorado

Ashley Shuyler, 18, of Golden, Colo., a senior at Colorado Academy in Denver, founded a non-profit organization that has raised more than $70,000 to provide four years of secondary education to 20 young women in Tanzania, and to provide badly needed supplies to girls' schools in that African nation. Ashley's idea germinated many years ago when she traveled to Africa for a wildlife safari. "The people I met there lived in poverty unlike anything I had seen before," she said. "I returned home with a new awareness of just how blessed we are here in the U.S., and just how many opportunities we have." 

A few years later, after meeting two missionaries who had started a school for Maasai girls in Tanzania, Ashley decided to focus on helping young African women get an education. She began seeking the assistance of friends, neighbors and family members, and before long, she had established a non-profit organization called AfricAid. She produced a brochure to describe her mission, developed a newsletter, launched a website, organized several fundraisers, and over the past two years has spent countless hours speaking to church groups, civic clubs, school organizations and others about her cause. Ashley hopes the impact of her work will go far beyond the girls she is helping. "After they graduate, they will either be able to continue their education, become teachers themselves, or return to their villages and make the health, economic and social changes they so badly need and desire."


Gideon Sofer, 18
Highland Park, New Jersey

Gideon Sofer, 18, of Highland Park, N.J., a senior at Highland Park High School, is conducting a national campaign to raise awareness and funds to fight Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which has afflicted him for much of his life. After nearly dying three years ago from a particularly serious attack of Crohn's disease, Gideon decided to take action. "I didn't know how many days I had left," he said, "but as long as I was being given the gift of life, I was going to do everything in my power to conquer this thing." An avid stamp collector, he began by launching an effort to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to issue a stamp highlighting Crohn's disease. He built a website to promote the idea, collected 5,000 signatures on a petition, and helped draft a Congressional resolution urging approval of the new stamp. Gideon also has delivered motivational lectures at schools and student conferences, and recently formed a foundation that is seeking pharmaceutical research grants to study the disease. "With Crohn's or any adversity, you can live a life of sorrow feeling helpless," he said, "or you can choose to turn it into an opportunity and realize you have the power to create change."

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National Middle School Honorees
(The following information has been reprinted with permission from the Prudential website.)
 
Sasha Bowers, 14 Columbus, Ohio 

Sasha Bowers, 14, of Columbus, Ohio, an eighth-grader at Norton Middle School, drew upon her experience living in a homeless shelter to develop a summer-long program of weekly activities for more than 250 other homeless children in the Columbus area. As a shelter resident, Sasha had enjoyed field trips to a local park, but thought they could be made more fun and educational. When she learned that volunteers were being recruited to work with homeless children, she figured there was no reason why she couldn't help. "I realized that even if I was homeless, I could still help other people, too," she said. She organized a planning committee with other kids at her shelter, developed ideas for a summer program, and sought donations from a variety of organizations. Sasha also promoted the program through media interviews, recruited and managed other volunteers, and arranged for supplies and transportation. Then, every Monday last summer, Sasha and her helpers hosted a "learning day" at the park for homeless kids, featuring gardening, fishing, educational tours, environmental readings and wildlife lectures. At summer's end, the program culminated with a big party for the kids, complete with entertainment, crafts, games and gifts. "No matter what situation you are in, you can always help make things better for others," said Sasha.


 
Kristal DeRuisé, 13 
Reno, Nevada 

Kristal DeRuisé, 13, of Reno, Nev., a seventh-grader at Pine Middle School, raised more than $25,000 for the National Lupus Foundation of America by designing, painting and selling decorative "ladybug" rocks. When Kristal learned that her best friend's mother suffered from lupus, a disease with no cure, Kristal knew she had to help. She decided to collect round rocks and paint them to look like ladybugs, and then sell them to help fund research efforts to cure lupus. "We set a goal of $1,000 in a year," said Kristal, who enlisted the help of friends and family in her project. She obtained permission to sell her work at a friend's store and her mother's work place. An article in the local newspaper helped spread the word, and Kristal's first 500 rocks sold out within three months. "The hardest part was finding all the rocks," she said.

Sales of Kristal's ladybug rocks now total over $25,000, with all profits going to the National Lupus Foundation of America, and she has been contacted by kids in other states who want to join the cause. "I learned that even the smallest idea can become huge," said Kristal. "We haven't gotten a cure yet, but we are still trying."


 
Chas Duff, 14
Chatsworth, California 

Chas Duff, 14, of Chatsworth, Cal., an eighth-grade student at Sierra Canyon School, remodeled an old gym locker room at a high school for juvenile offenders, and turned it into the school's first library. "My project idea came from three things that are very important to me," Chas said. "The first is reading, the second is helping people, and the third is doing the right thing." After learning that William Tell Aggeler High School in Los Angeles did not have a library, Chas offered to provide one and then went to work developing a plan and obtaining all of the necessary approvals. He solicited donations of money, building materials, and skilled labor from local businesses, unions and civic groups. Volunteers from Chas' school, scout troop and church helped level a cement floor, paint walls, install carpet, and build shelving. Others shelved and catalogued book donations using the Dewey Decimal system. In addition to housing books the school already had, the new library will feature 4,000 new volumes purchased with a state grant and another 1,000 collected by Chas. The library is not only providing much broader reading horizons for Aggeler High School students, but also has inspired some of Chas' friends to start volunteer projects of their own. "It seems that when you help in some small  way, it affects lots of other people and things," said Chas. "It just expands in a circle."


 
Jacob Komar, 10
Burlington, Connecticut 

Jacob Komar, 10, of Burlington, Connecticut, a sixth-grader at Talcott Mountain Academy in Avon, initiated a program called "Computers for Communities" that has restored and upgraded more than 60 outdated personal computers and installed them in the homes of families that couldn't afford to buy one. Jacob, a self-described "computer fanatic," was shocked when he learned of a garage at his sister's school filled with old computers that were going to be thrown out.  He realized he could revamp the computers and give them to people who could not afford their own. "I thought that by doing this, I would help a lot of kids get a head start," said Jacob. First, he secured the school district's approval to take the old computers, and then went to work on the machines - analyzing, trouble-shooting and rebuilding. He had to call numerous software companies to transfer licenses, and installed new software and hardware where appropriate. In order to identify those in his community most in need of computers, Jacob worked with the Department of Social Services. When the computers were ready, Jacob installed them in their new homes and taught 140 family members how to use them. As word of his project has spread, Jacob has received more computer donations, and he has recruited other students at his school to help. He also has received requests from organizations that want to start similar programs, and he hopes to eventually see the project expand to other communities across the country.


 
Clayton Lillard, 14
San Antonio, Texas 

Clayton Lillard, 14, of San Antonio, Texas, an eighth-grader at William P. Hobby Middle School, has collected and refurbished hundreds of used bicycles and donated them as Christmas gifts to children who have a parent in prison. While walking one day with his mother four years ago, Clayton saw a neighbor throwing out two perfectly good bicycles, and thought "it would be really great to fix up those bikes and give them to kids who would really like to have one." In particular, he had in mind the children of prison inmates. "I knew that those kids hardly got anything for Christmas," he said. Clayton persuaded a local radio station to announce that he was looking for used bicycles, and soon other news media began reporting on his project. Initially, he received so many donations he had to turn some away, but ended up refurbishing 100 bikes the first year with the help of several friends who came to be known as "Clayton's Backyard Crew." Clayton also rounded up donations of bike helmets, locks and other accessories to go with the restored bicycles. His crew repaired and donated 300 more during the following two years. The kids who receive the bicycles, which are distributed through the Angel Tree Prison Ministry, think they're from their parents in prison, said Clayton. "You can't imagine the excitement when they find this out!" he said.


Congratulations again to all these outstanding youth volunteers!  We think you're simply amazing!

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For more information:

For more information about the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, visit their website at: www.prudential.com

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RELATED LINKS:

Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

Volunteer Tips for Young People

Project Ideas for Young People

National Association of Secondary Principals
 


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A Special Message from Amazing Kids! for all you kids:

It's no secret...every person has an "amazing-ness" inside of them, just waiting to be discovered.  (Sometimes we just need a little help in finding out what that "amazing-ness" is!) 

If you are doing some amazing things too, we want to hear about it!  Send us your stories about your amazing accomplishments, so we can tell the world just how amazing you are!  We are always looking for new stories.  And don't be shy!  We'd love to hear from you!



Here's an idea you might want to try:

WHY NOT HELP OTHERS SEE THEIR OWN POTENTIAL?

If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, why not tell them what you think is special about them?  Maybe you can be the one to help them uncover their own special talents! 

Amazing Kids! is looking for teens to be Amazing Teen Volunteers and Ambassadors . If you'd like to join Amazing Kids! in helping to spread the word, please email us at: info@amazing-kids.org

HELP US SPREAD THE WORD:

  It's cool to be an Amazing Kid!

 

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