Two Maine students selected for community spirit award

The Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards recently selected Katherine Elliott, 18, of Scarborough and Marissa Bates, 10, of Westbrook as Maine’s top youth volunteers for 2013. As state honorees, each student will receive a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion, and a trip to Washington, D.C., May 4 to 7 for the program’s national recognition events. In Washington, a distinguished National Selection Committee will name 10 national honorees, who will receive additional awards and grants.

Elliott, a senior at Scarborough High School, recruits fellow students to help her conduct a community collection drive each month to benefit a variety of local charitable organizations. She established her own charity, “The Driving Force,” in November 2011. Each month, Elliott picks one nonprofit to support, contacts its officials to determine what they need most, and then asks area teenagers to help her collect and deliver donations. So far, her drives have benefited a Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army, the Preble Street Soup Kitchen, the Center for Grieving Children, the Animal Refuge League, the Lighthouse Shelter, Children’s Miracle Network, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Bates, a member of the Girl Scouts of Maine and a fifth grader at Westbrook Middle School, came up with the idea of a “mitten tree” to distribute mittens and warm hats to students who need them. “I noticed that a lot of kids at school had no hat or mittens,” explained Bates. “I wanted to help my classmates stay warm.” She told her mother that she wanted to help, and then proposed setting up a “tree” in school with mittens and hats for any students that wanted them. Bates brought the idea to her Girl Scout troop, which agreed to work with her on the project. After collecting donations of mittens and hats from friends and family members, the scouts set up a tree at an elementary school.

Two other Maine students have been named distinguished finalists and will receive bronze medallions at local ceremonies. Learn more about Maine’s honorees and finalists.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, are designed to emphasize the importance our nation places on service to others, and to encourage all young Americans to contribute to their communities.

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