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Two W.Va. Students Receive Spirit of Community Award

June 12, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ A Huntington high school student and a Fairmont middle school student have been named top youth volunteers for 2006 and given the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.  

Erin Lavery, 17, of Huntington organized a month-long nutrition and physical fitness education program at Huntington High School that included the use of pedometers by 1,600 students and faculty. As an athlete and lifelong volunteer, Erin said she wanted to help classmates and staff develop a commitment to healthy habits and physical activity.  

“Recent health statistics show that the prevalence of obesity in West Virginia is among the highest in the nation,” she said. “I wanted to take a proactive stand to do something about this.”  

Jacob Hixenbaugh, 15, of Fairmont and Barrackville Middle School, makes and distributes pillows to comfort sick children and elderly nursing home residents.  

“I wanted to be able to have something to give the patients when we visit them,” he said.  

So he asked his mother to teach him to sew, and began making colorful pillows that he calls “pillow pals.”  

He raised money for supplies by organizing a basketball shoot-out and selling tickets at school to see his principal kiss a live pig. He then purchased materials and recruited several other 4-Hers to help sew, stuff and deliver the pillows to hospitalized children and seniors living at a community home. He also has made pillows for Ronald McDonald House residents and young victims of Hurricane Katrina.  

Winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award receive $1,000, an engraved medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C. The awards are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Two winners are chosen from each state and Washington, D.C.  

Russell Hixenbaugh, 16, of Fairmont and North Marion High School, and Paul Zuros, 18, of Weirton and Weir High School, also were named distinguished finalists and received a bronze medallion.

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