Twelve middle and high school students from southeast Georgia were recognized Friday by the American Red Cross of Southeast and Coastal Georgia as Youth Heroes. The selected students extended their hearts and hands in volunteer work and were honored with a breakfast held in the Natural Resources Building at Ogeechee Technical College.
Esther Sheppard, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast and Coastal Georgia, pointed out that, according to a study of youth development, youth volunteers are “twice as likely to get better grades in school, 25-percent more likely to positively contribute to their family and community and twice as likely to continue their volunteer efforts as adults.”
The Youth Hero award winners’ resumes boasted of such volunteer efforts as: children’s nursery worker, Vacation Bible School volunteer, food drive organizer, food bank contributor, student book bag collector, elementary school mentor, special needs community volunteer, children’s tutor, peer tutor, soup kitchen helper, Rebecca’s Café volunteer, Department of Child and Family services contributor, thrift store and food pantry contributor, Goodwill volunteer and nursing home visitor.
Many of the students served in multiple areas, like their school, church and community. Hannah Clay said about her volunteering, “I want other people to know Jesus and it makes me happy to help other people know God.”
The efforts varied among the winners, but one thing seemed to be constant with the students’ reason for volunteering and that was the feeling each received when serving others. Elizabeth Wiggins said: “To see the people’s faces; their smiles are the best part. That makes me feel so happy.”
“To know you’ve helped someone, it feels really good,” said Madison Patrick.
Edie Grace Grice said, “I love volunteering because all the people in this room are so blessed; there are so many people out there not as blessed as we are. I like to use my God-given blessings and talents to share with others; that’s why I volunteer.”
Middle-schooler Brian Perez completely gets the relationship between those being served and those serving. Perez said his favorite part about volunteering is to help others and he added, “And to know that one day, I might need help.”
Though the focus of the breakfast was on the Youth Heroes, WTOC South Georgia Bureau Chief Dal Cannady, who served as emcee of the event, was surprised with a similar award as the students for his role in bringing awareness to the American Red Cross with his 99-mile fundraising walk in early March.
At the closing of the program, Sheppard said, “When you listen to the news, you hear that there’s a shooting almost every day in near-by Savannah. But as we look around at these Youth Heroes, we have hope – our future is brighter.”
Cannady agreed, “For everything we hear on a daily basis, kids that are disappointing their parents or teachers and are getting in trouble, when we hear from Youth Heroes like this; I think we’re going to be OK.”
The Youth Hero honorees: Chloe Branch, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Hannah Clay, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Edie Grace Grice, Statesboro High School; Ashlyn Lanier, Statesboro High School; Jonah Jones, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Maddie Laesser, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Austin Moore, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Madison Patrick, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Brian Perez, Langston Chapel Middle School; Taylor Soles, Bradwell Institute; Elizabeth Wiggins, Southeast Bulloch Middle School and Emily Wiggins, Southeast Bulloch Middle School.