An Anaheim girl who created a "closet: at her former elementary school that provides clothing and other items to students whose families cannot afford to buy such necessities was today named one of America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2019.
Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, 13-year-old Hannah Karanick earned the title of National Honoree at the 24th annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
The other nine 2019 National Honorees recognized at Union Station's East Hall in Washington, D.C., are from New Castle, Pennsylvania; Urbana, Illinois; Pineville, North Carolina; Syracuse, New York; Gambrills, Maryland; De Pere, Wisconsin; Tampa, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; and Flowood, Mississippi.
Hannah and another California teen, 15-year-old Ethan Auyeung of Los Gatos, were named California's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized Sunday night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia.
Each of the 102 State Honorees for 2019 received $1,000 awards, as well as personal congratulations from actress Viola Davis, at that event. The honorees also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
Hannah, now an eighth-grader at Orangeview Junior High School, came up with the idea of providing new clothing, laundry products, toiletries, quilts and school supplies to students at her former elementary school whose families are struggling financially. Her project was sparked by a boy at her school who never had a backpack and wore the same clothes every day.
"He was funny and smart, but he was often teased for his hygiene and his clothes, and I saw his eyes fill up with tears many times," she said. When the boy and several other students ended up living with Hannah's family as foster kids, "I watched their grades soar and their attitudes turn around," the teen added.
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Her family couldn't take every child in need into their home, so Hannah decided to find another way to help. After meeting with the principal of her old school and sending an opinion poll to the staff, she implemented her closet idea, asking friends and family members to help her buy supplies and then obtaining items from the congregation of a local church.
Nearly 50 children benefited from "Hannah's Helpful Hands" closet in its first three months.
Ethan, a sophomore at Los Gatos High School, has provided nearly 3,800 care packages for homeless and at-risk youth over the past few years, organized numerous activities for them, and worked to raise public awareness of the problem of youth homelessness.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial Inc. in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network.
Since the program was created in 1995, the program has honored more than 125,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.