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Local youths honored for volunteer work

MGN Online

Mississippi's Top Youth Volunteers Of 2018 Selected By National Program

Posted: Feb. 6, 2018 1:11 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Grace McAllister, 15, of

Nettleton and Jameshia Attaway, 14, of Indianola today were named

Mississippi's top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential

Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people

for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Grace and

Jameshia each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an

all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C., where they

will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the

District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events.

During the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth

volunteers of 2018.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is

conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National

Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Mississippi's top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Grace McAllister Nominated by Monroe County

4-H in Aberdeen

Grace, a freshman at Nettleton High School, has collected and donated

more than 1,000 new stuffed animals to comfort children traumatized by

sexual abuse and let them know that they are not alone. Grace knows

firsthand the immeasurable pain of being abused by a person she

trusted. "Being a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of my own

father, the one person who should protect me, not hurt me, I decided I

wanted to help other victims," Grace said.

Grace was abused from the age of 6 until, at 10 years old, she found

the courage to tell her stepmother what was happening. What followed

were months of interviews, counselors, lawyer visits, court

appearances and the disbelief of some family members, she said. She

felt nobody understood. So, Grace created a YouTube video to tell her

story and encourage others to "break the silence." It's been viewed

more than 40,000 times. She then contacted a local Family Resource

Center with a proposal to provide stuffed animals to young abuse

victims. She held collection drives through her Facebook page, raffled

off a huge teddy bear to raise money, and partnered with local

businesses to collect stuffed animals. She also started an

"ambassador" program to encourage children in other states to collect

stuffed animals for their local resource centers. "I have gained the

knowledge that I am a survivor, not a victim," said Grace. "I have

seen that small tokens of love and hope can make a difference. I have

gained back myself from volunteering."

Middle Level State Honoree: Jameshia Attaway Nominated by Girl Scouts

Heart of The South in Memphis

Jameshia, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph High School, supplies five

schools in her area with personal hygiene items that she collects for

students who have a need for them during the school day. An avid

volunteer whose role model is her mother, Jameshia was inspired to

start her project after hearing a girl in her school restroom say she

needed a sanitary napkin. "She was embarrassed to walk out of the

restroom," said Jameshia. "Seeing young girls the same age as me

having to leave school because they don't have sanitary napkins, or a

child being picked on because they smell, made me sad. I promised

myself that if I ever got enough money, I would place personal hygiene

products in schools within my area."

So, after getting permission from the school district and arranging

for staff members to assist her, she began raising money and

collecting donations by competing in pageants, speaking to civic

organizations, soliciting businesses, and applying for grants. Within

three months, she had supplied five schools with personal hygiene

items such as soap, towels, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes and

sanitary napkins. She recruited two students at each school to stock

the items and notify her when supplies run low. "Students don't have

to leave school or call home if they need something," she said. "They

can stay in class and learn."

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized four other Mississippi students as

Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service

activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Mississippi's Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Mae Holyoak, 15, of Natchez, Miss., a freshman at Cathedral School,

has helped to raise more than $70,000 for the Natchez-Adams County

Humane Society over the past 10 years by selling lemonade, baked

goods, crafts and sponsored T-shirts through her annual "Mae and

Friends' Lemonade Stand." Mae, whose efforts began at 5 years old as a

fundraiser to buy a $50 pet bed, also volunteers with her friends at

the animal shelter.

Madison Ray, 18, of Ackerman, Miss., a senior at Choctaw County High

School, has spent the past four years providing essential hands-on

support to a local dog shelter, from cleaning out pens to

awareness-raising to helping with repairs. Madison was moved to help

the understaffed shelter by the stray dogs she'd seen in her town, and

has persuaded peers to volunteer at the shelter, too; her efforts have

helped to restore the health of and find homes for numerous abandoned

dogs.

Sarah Tidwell, 17, of Watervalley, Miss., a senior at Lafayette High

School, has traveled across Mississippi, raising awareness about the

dangers of caffeine overdose and persuading state and local officials

to support legislation prohibiting the sale of caffeine pills and

powders to minors. Sarah, who worked with the family of the boy the

law was named for, chose the issue as her pageant platform after

seeing her peers drinking and taking the same caffeine substances as

he did.

John Wilkinson, 13, of Oxford, Miss., an eighth-grader at Oxford

Middle School, was one of the first students to volunteer with his

school's inaugural peer tutoring program, where his responsibilities

have ranged from understanding different learning styles and making

study skills videos to teaching English to students learning it as a

second language. Since it started last school year, John has supported

the program as it's grown to help 50-100 students a month.

"Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for

using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful

change to their communities," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John

Strangfeld. "We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they

can do the same."

"These middle level and high school students have not only improved

the lives of the people and communities they've served - they also set

an important example for their peers," said JoAnn Bartoletti,

executive director of NASSP. "These honorees prove that you're never

too young to make a difference."

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