Matthew Wettach: Iowa's Top Youth Volunteer in 12th Annual National Awards Program
Matthew was nominated by Mt. Pleasant Community High School in Mount Pleasant, and Candace was nominated by Lewis Central Middle School in Council Bluffs. As State Honorees, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees - one middle level and one high school youth - from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2007 at that time.
Matthew, a junior at Mt. Pleasant Community High School, founded a program that has provided backpacks filled with new school supplies to 125 kindergartners from low-income families over the past two years. "I remember when I was in grade school, some children would get picked on because they did not have nice new school supplies like everyone else," he said. "I would share my school supplies with them, but felt frustrated because I wanted to do more."
Matthew finally got his chance. During the summer of 2005, he began mowing lawns to earn money for a project he calls "Write Start." He approached a local community center to identify children in need, and asked kindergarten teachers for the list of supplies required of new students. Then Matthew diligently watched ads for the best prices on school supplies, and spent thousands of his hard-earned dollars at local stores. The purchased supplies were stuffed into backpacks along with personalized notes, and delivered to the community center for eligible kids to pick up. In addition, Matthew organized a drive to provide the kids with coats, hats, mittens and teddy bears during the holiday season. Matthew says he hopes to expand Write Start soon to other communities. (...)
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital's landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them - five middle level and five high school students - will be named National Honorees on May 7 by a prestigious national selection committee. These honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit, charitable organizations of their choice.
Serving on the national selection committee will be U.S. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota; Arthur Ryan of Prudential; actor Richard Dreyfuss; Alma Powell, chair of America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth; Robert Goodwin, president and CEO of the Points of Light Foundation; Amy B. Cohen, director of Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; Kathryn Forbes, national chair of volunteers, American Red Cross; Joe Militello, president of NASSP; and two 2006 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Ajay Mangal of Pascagoula, Miss., and Geneva Johnson of the Bronx, N.Y.
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