CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Kanawha County high school student and a Mason County junior high school student have been named top youth volunteers for 2012 and given the national Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Emily Brown, 15, of Elkview and a sophomore at Herbert Hoover High School in Clendenin, launched "Sports for a Cure" to spread breast cancer awareness through middle and high school sporting events. Brown came up with the idea in 2010 after seeing similar things done on the college level.
"Having had a family member and a best friend's grandmother with breast cancer, I knew that it was possible to start spreading the message of early detection prior to college," Brown said. "It is so important that breast examinations become part of a young woman's routine – why not start early when the groundwork for so many things is being laid."
Brown drafted information on how to host a pink event and mailed it to all secondary schools in West Virginia and to school boards in four neighboring states. She used the money she earned from a summer job to pay for mailing supplies and postage. Then, she contacted her state's Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation affiliate and asked it to supply educational materials for pink events. She also got support from her state when the Legislature passed a resolution that she co-drafted encouraging schools to host and participate in breast cancer events. Since starting her project, more than 40 schools have hosted pink events, raising both awareness of breast cancer and more than $15,000 for the Komen Foundation.
Katherine Deem, 13, of Leon and an eighth grader at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School, has organized or participated in a broad range of activities through her church, 4-H club and school. Deem, who was nominated for the award by the Mason County 4-H program, became very serious about volunteering after traveling nearly 4,000 miles to visit every county in West Virginia.
"I saw beautiful sights, but I also saw many people in need," Deem said. "It didn't take long for the new adventure as a volunteer to begin."
As a member of her church, Deem has participated in pantry drives and clothing giveaways, visited nursing homes, collected items for newborn babies and served as a junior counselor at a summer church camp. With her 4-H group, she has bagged groceries for Make a Difference Day, organized two food drives for a homeless shelter and local food banks, helped out at a cancer awareness walk and a Halloween block party, picked up trash during a citywide cleanup day, and planted flowers at a local park. At school, she coordinated class and alumni activities during homecoming week, and served and delivered food at Veterans' Day and Christmas dinners. She also has volunteered at the West Virginia State Farm Museum, and as a page at the state Capitol.
State winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the national awards in May. 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.
Wesley Davis, 17, of Point Pleasant and a senior at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School, and Catherine Wells, 17, of Belmont and a senior at St. Marys High School in Pleasants County, also were named distinguished state finalists and will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
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