"We're looking for young people who are already involved in a meaningful community project to honor them for their work," says Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which is accepting nominations for its third annual
Youth Service Challenge
. "There are so many young people in our region especially, with so much energy, doing such good work, that we want to encourage them."
Jefferson's Youth Service Challenge is looking for young people ages 5-25 to nominate themselves (or to be nominated by others) and be honored for their service-project work. The entry deadline April 30. Local winners in nine categories (animal rights; community building and citizenship; education and literacy; elder care; environment and sustainability; health and wellness; hunger, homelessness and poverty; peace and justice; and service to youth) will compete in a national competition.
Farabaugh says the awards have encouraged further youth activism and success in the area. Alexis Werner, for instance, won first place in the Pittsburgh regional Youth Service Challenge in 2011. She was honored for creating Seeds of Hope, which planted "victory gardens" throughout the region to engage area youth and the local community about the difficulties of veterans transitioning back to civilian life, and to create baskets to deliver to local veterans and their families. She was inspired by the many deployments her mother and stepfather, both servicemembers, had undertaken, and the severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with which her stepfather was diagnosed.
With fellow Shaler Area High School students, Alexis delivered 75 baskets of produce to veterans, planted and cared for 10 victory gardens and raised $200. Since then, she has had a chance to work with Jefferson Awards founder Sam Beard and the Awards' GlobeChangers program to bring Seeds of Hope to 20 states, and has raised more than $15,000.
Another local winner, Bobby Catley, then a senior at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, saw the need for people to understand the new food pyramid nutrition guidelines, so he raised money to organize and host an event for 1,500, complete with cooking demonstrations, healthy food samples and other informational components. "He is the only local person who has won at the national level to date," says Farabaugh.
Jefferson also provides winners with some tools to grow their projects and gain them attention, from press-release templates and social-media strategy tips to hints for finding new funding and other ways to increase their impact.
"I'm really excited to hear a lot of the stories that are coming out of Pittsburgh," says Farabaugh about the many entries she receives. "This is all a really great opportunity for us to share those stories and get Pittsburgh on the national stage."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service