Two W.Va. Students Receive Spirit of Community Award

February 23, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ A Wood County high school student and a Marion County middle school student have been named top youth volunteers for 2007 and given the national Prudential Spirit of Community Award.  

Kelydra Welcker, a 17-year-old senior at Parkersburg South High School, invented a way to purify drinking water in her community by developing a test for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, commoningly called C8, and then creating a method for removing the chemical from water. She is seeking a patent for the process.  

DuPont uses the chemical at its nearby plant in the manufacturing of Teflon and other non-stick products. C8 has been linked to cancer in some animal studies. DuPont has said other studies show the chemical has no adverse affects.  

“After listening to the media and reading articles debating the issue, I decided that it was more important to remove the chemical rather than to argue about its toxicity,” Welcker said.  

Over the past two years, Welcker conducted extensive research, collected and refurbished old scientific equipment, built a lab in a trailer near her home, monitored the local water supply and designed a test to detect C8 with 92 percent accuracy. She also designed a tabletop removal unit to help individuals with contaminated wells and cisterns.  

Cody Gallagher, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Rivesville Elementary/Middle School, developed a campaign to provide new and used children’s books to disadvantaged families to encourage parents and their children to read together.  

“Learning to read can open many doors of success,” Gallagher said. “When you open the pages of a book you open the door to travel, excitement, adventure, make believe and history. Most of all, you open communication between a parent and child.”  

With help from his mother, Gallagher collected books from thrift stores, yard sales, churches and book sales. He also conducted a community book drive, raised money to buy books and support a local literacy program and persuaded transit authorities to collect books in lieu of bus fares for a day. The books he collected were valued at $12,500.  

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.  

Lauren Taylor, 16, of Martinsburg High School, and McKenzie Young, 18, of Huntington High School, also were named distinguished finalists and received a bronze medallion.

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