Rydell honored for volunteerism

Rydell honored for volunteerism Michelle Rydell, 17, of Vermillion, and Molly Stehly, 13, of Sioux Falls, were named South Dakota's top two youth volunteers Feb. 8 for 2005 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

The awards program, now in its 10th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). More than 20,000 high school and middle level students submitted applications for this year's program.

Rydell was nominated by Vermillion High School in Vermillion, and Molly was nominated by Memorial Middle School in Sioux Falls. As state honorees, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, DC, where they will join the top two honorees � one middle level and one high school youth � from each of the other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2005 at that time.

Rydell, a senior at Vermillion High School, created the "Dream Team" at her school, a club dedicated to providing essential goods to impoverished people in Guatemala, and raising awareness of the poverty that exists in that Central American nation.

"As I became older and more aware of the poverty crisis around the world, I felt a calling to help," she said. She began by volunteering with "Sharing the Dream," an oganization that sells Guatemalan crafts, but she soon realized that she could do much more.

With the help of her Spanish teacher, Rydell formed the Dream Team and recruited more than 30 fellow students to be "team" members. As president, she organized and led meetings, spoke at school assemblies, promoted the club to schools and teachers in other districts, and coordinated the club's projects. For its first project, Rydell's club collected thousands of school supplies and raised funds to purchase 200 Spanish-language schoolbooks for newly built schools in Guatemala.

"The Dream Team will also be holding clothing and shoe drives during the winter months, and a toy drive before Christmas," she said.

While in Washington, DC, the 104 state honorees will tour the capital's landmarks, attended a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them � five middle level and five high school students � will be named National Honorees on May 2 by a prestigious national selection committee.

These honorees will receive an additional $5,000, a gold medallion and a crystal trophy, and will have $25,000 in children's products donated in each of their names to needy children in their communities by kids in Distressed Situations, Inc., the national charity of the children's apparel and products industry.

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