Anik Willig, 17, a student at Coral Reef High School was named one of Florida's top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for
outstanding acts of volunteerism.
She will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where she will join with the other honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 25th year, is
conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Anik organized a weekly reading program at a homeless shelter, pairing student tutors from her high school with young readers to improve their literacy skills during a time in their lives when academic development is often disrupted. When Anik was in middle school, she volunteered at the Chapman Partnership Homeless Shelter in Homestead to help put on a play and found that many of the children there could not read their scripts. “I soon learned that homeless children experience a lot of inconsistencies in their education as a result of often moving between shelters and subsequently switching schools many times in the period of one year,” said Anik. To address this issue, she created an organization called “H.E.R.O.” (Homeless Empowerment and Reading Opportunities).
Once a week, Anik and students she has recruited through various clubs at school provide one-on-one tutoring for an hour at the homeless shelter. She brings an assortment of books, allowing each child to choose an age-appropriate one. Also, to motivate them, she gives each young reader a token after 15 minutes of reading, which they can use at the end of the session to “purchase” a toy or other item from a gift shop she sets up. In addition to scheduling volunteers and working with the shelter’s staff to coordinate activities, Anik has organized several book and toy drives to keep her program well-supplied. She estimates that she and her volunteers have made a difference in the lives of several hundred children in her community, and has laid the groundwork for nearby counties to adopt similar programs.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.
On May 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.