CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s top two youth volunteers of 2020, Angela Liu, 17, of Morgantown and Carlie Ice, 14, of Fairmont, were recently recognized for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Angela and Carlie, along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country, were each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as West Virginia’s top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Angela and Carlie West Virginia’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
“Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?”
Angela and Carlie also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program’s annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
“We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them,” said Bartoletti. “At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives.”
Angela, a junior at Morgantown High School, started a club at her school that organizes events to help save the lives of those with blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, by expanding the pool of potential bone marrow donors. Angela first learned about the shortage of life-saving donated bone marrow two years ago from an older friend who wanted to start a chapter of the Be The Match registry network at West Virginia University in her hometown. “There is a high demand for bone marrow transplants but the supply is dangerously low,” Angela said. “Many people have to wait weeks while their situation worsens waiting for a donor. Without a transplant, they have less than a 10 percent chance of survival.” She wanted to help by starting a club at her school to expand the efforts in her town.
She began by researching the Be The Match National Marrow Donor Program and met with an organization official who said her club would likely be the first at the high school level. It was difficult to find a teacher to advise the club, but eventually she did, and recruited 30 student members. Working with WVU, Angela and her club run drives to sign up donors, who are given cheek swab kits that are then sent to the registry for testing. When doctors have patients who require donated marrow, they turn to the registry to find a match. Angela estimates that each of her drives adds about 40 potential donors to the registry, and she is now advising students in other towns on starting their own clubs.
Carlie, an eighth-grader at East Fairmont Middle School, increases awareness of epilepsy, a disease she shares with 3.5 million other Americans, by speaking to groups as a teen representative of the West Virginia chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation (EFWV), and raises money for research with lemonade stands, pumpkin-painting contests and a community walk. Carlie, an avid soccer player, sometimes has seizures on and off the field. “My mom told me how important it was for me to make sure I was safe doing the things I loved,” Carlie said. She also recognized that sometimes she was treated differently and not included in things. “I knew some of the reason was because people were scared or didn’t understand epilepsy,” she said. So Carlie, with the help of her mother, set out to change that.
They started by teaching her soccer and volleyball clubs about seizure first aid and safety, in case they were present when she or someone else had an attack. After being selected as a teen representative for EFWV, she began speaking at schools and demonstrating ways to help a person during a seizure. Carlie also began raising money to support people with epilepsy, first by hosting a lemonade stand that featured informational materials and first-aid wallet cards, as well as lemonade. In addition, she challenged classmates to paint Halloween pumpkins purple and make donations to vote for their favorite design. And she helped organize a Walk to END Epilepsy, raising more than $14,000. Carlie also has lobbied members of Congress from her state to support funding for epilepsy research and education.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service. In the past 25 years, the program has honored more than 130,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.