Volunteer efforts of junior high schooler recognized

Sophie Happ, 14, of Monticello was named a state Distinguished Finalist in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for 2018.

Happ, an eighth-grader at Monticello Middle School, started a drive four years ago that has collected nearly 15,000 books for children in need.

“Sophie spreads the word and distributes collection boxes to schools throughout her district, works with friends and family to sort books by reading level and genre, then contacts agencies to find them good homes,” stated a press release from Prudential.

Illinois winners

Kennison Adams, 18, of Edwardsville and Rosalea Colucci, 13, of Palatine on Feb. 6 were named Illinois' 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, Kennison and Rosalea 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 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).

Adams, a senior at Edwardsville High School who was nominated by Edwardsville High School in Edwardsville, has assisted hundreds of people in emergency situations over the past three years as a member of the Edwardsville Fire Department Explorer Post.

In order to join the Explorer Post program, Kennison had to be trained and certified in CPR, first-aid and blood-borne pathogen safety, and learn how to draw blood and start IVs.

Now, she makes sure fire trucks and ambulances are stocked and ready for emergency calls, rides along with first-responders to assist in any way she can, and cleans up vehicles afterwards. Kennison also provides hands-on help at community events, including fire department open houses and safety awareness presentations, pediatric cancer fundraisers and local homecoming carnivals and festivals.

She is currently assistant chief of her Explorer Post program.

Colucci, nominated by Plum Grove Junior High School in Rolling Meadows, is an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School. She has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other gifts for hospitalized children, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

When she was just 3, Rosie was diagnosed with brain tumors and numerous other serious conditions that required her to spend a lot of time in the hospital. While there, she received so many gifts that her mother said she couldn't keep them all. So Rosie decided to share them with kids who didn't have any.

A year after her diagnosis, Rosie started Rosie's Toy Box and began collecting donated gifts in a plastic bin outside her family's front door. Before long, she was not only soliciting donations of toys and other items for pediatric patients, but was also working to raise money for a variety of charities and foundations. She asks big and small businesses, schools, churches, daycare centers and restaurants to conduct toy drives or fundraisers with her; and she promotes her efforts through fliers, social media and the news media.

Among the activities she has conducted to pursue her mission are walk/runs, lemonade and bake sales, dance marathons, school competitions and head-shaving.

Distinguished Finalists were Happ; Taylor Larson, 18, of Chillicothe; Radoslava Pribyl Pierdinock, 17, of Riverside; Bhavana Ravala, 17, of Bloomington; Evan Robinson, 12, of Chicago; Clare Vanspeybroeck, 18, of Rock Island; Matthew Williams, 16, of Schaumburg; and Esther Xiang, 16, of Freeport.

Categories (3):News, Education, People

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