Young volunteers earn statewide honors

Adam Sella, 17, of Cincinnati was named one of Ohio’s top two youth volunteers of 2017 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. The nationwide program honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

As a state honoree, Adam will receive $1,000, a medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where he will join other honorees for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

These are Ohio’s top youth volunteers of 2017:

High School State Honoree: Adam Sella, nominated by Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. A senior at Walnut Hills High School, he founded a school club to aid refugees in the Cincinnati area and raise awareness of the refugee crisis through projects that include collection drives, a tutoring program and events to fund college scholarships.

Middle Level State Honoree: Mackenzie Lewis, a Columbus fifth-grader, collected 1,350 cases of bottled water and more than 300 gallon water jugs for people in Flint, Michigan, where the water supply has lead contamination

The judges also recognized eight Ohio Distinguished Finalists:

Erinn Aulfinger, 18, of Liberty Township, a member of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and a senior at Lakota East High School, created a self-help book geared toward improving the self-esteem of girls entering middle school. She raised $5,000 for publishing costs.

Milan Bhandari, 17, a senior at Indian Hill High School, created FixN’Give, a nonprofit that, by collecting and refurbishing old computers, has helped more than 250 kids.

Lily Kwiatkowski, 16, of Cleveland, who created an after-school program to study the environment.

Matthew Oh, 16, of Dublin, who founded New Kicks for Kids to provide shoes for kids in need.

Vishnu Paranandi, 17, a senior at Wyoming High School, has volunteered with the city’s technology-help-for-seniors program since he was a freshman. Since becoming its first student president the following year, he has coordinated all aspects of the program from scheduling to advertising.

Taylor Powers, 17, of Cincinnati, a member of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and a senior at Ursuline Academy, works with children at a homeless shelter and is studying the literacy gap between children living above and below the poverty line.

Ananya Tawde, 17, of Mason, a senior at William Mason High School, has raised $2,500 to benefit kids with heart disease. She takes custom orders for paintings, offers art lessons and hosts parties through a nonprofit she founded called Art for the Heart.

Madison Wagner, 16, of Strongsville, led other students in projects to help the community through the Make a Difference (M.A.D.) Club she started when she was 13.


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