Local Girl Scouts Margaret "Lucy" Farrell and Grace Rodriguez of Miami, Fla. have been honored for their exemplary volunteer service with a President's Volunteer Service Award.
The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida nominated Lucy and Grace for national honors this fall in recognition of their volunteer service.
Grace spends each summer volunteering as a swim instructor at the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida where she assists in teaching swim lessons to children 5-7 years of age, among other responsibilities. This swim instruction program has run for almost 60 years and has won multiple awards from the American Red Cross. Nearly 1,000 children learn to swim each summer at the Venetian Pool.
“Out of my volunteer work, I felt happy and satisfied that someone would be benefiting from me,” says Grace. “I learned what it’s like being a teacher and how hard they work for their students. I learned how to speak publicly, and how to work with young children. The most memorable part was seeing all the young, happy faces bouncing around excitedly, waiting for me to teach them.”
“One specific incident was this little girl, Victoria. She was 5 years old and every time she saw me she’d cling on to me. I loved teaching her because she would always do as I said. In the end, she ended up passing her class. I would definitely tell other young people to become a teaching aide; it’s a great experience and a great way to spend your summer.”
Lucy, an avid reader, was sick of reading books with “female characters who are locked in towers to wait for princely rescue crews”. Her Gold Award project, “Read Like a Girl” has a simple yet significant goal: to raise awareness about the need for realistic female characters in literature. Lucy created two social media sites which have attracted more than 150 followers including the book editor for the Miami Herald, authors and teens. She teamed up with her school’s National English Honors Society, the Adrianne Arsht Center and her Girl Scout troop to launch a book drive to collect gently used books that pass the Bechdel test. These books will live in the reading corner Lucy created at her local Boys and Girls Club afterschool program, reaching over 200 children.
“So far I have collected about 50 books that meet this criteria. Once I reach 100, I'll be donating them to create a library at the Boys & Girls Club in Miami and starting a story hour there. (Boys need to read books with strong female characters, too!),” Lucy explains. “This project's impact has stretched beyond Miami. My social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook has more than 100 followers and continues to grow.”
“We are immensely proud of the commitment to community that these girls demonstrate,” says Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida. “Both Grace and Lucy embody the spirit of G.I.R.L. - Go-Getters, Innovators, Risk-Takers and Leaders and we are honored to be part of their journey to create lasting impact and change in our community and the world.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.
"The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community."
"Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life," said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. "These honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate."
Prudential Spirit of Community Award applications were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advanced for state-level judging. In addition to granting President's Volunteer Service Awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.