Rydell honored as top youth volunteer

Rydell honored as top youth volunteer Michelle Rydell, 17, of Vermillion, a senior at Vermillion High School, was presented with an engraved silver medallion to signify her selection as one of South Dakota's top two volunteers for 2005 in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. The presentation took place on Tuesday, April 19, at 11:30 a.m. during a school board meeting at the Buffalo Run Winery & Restaurant.

As a state honoree, Rydell also will receive $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip in May to Washington, DC, where she will join more than 100 other top honorees from across the country for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2005 at that time.

Rydell is being honored for creating 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," said Rydell.

She began by volunteering with "Sharing the Dream in Guatemala," a local organization that sells Guatemalan crafts, but she soon realized that she could do so much more.

With the help of her Spanish teacher, Carisa Dobrinski, Rydell formed the Dream Team and recruited more than 30 fellow students to be "team" members. As co-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 over 11,000 school supplies and raised funds to purchase 200 Spanish-language schoolbooks for newly-built schools in Guatemala. The Dream Team also created 200 donation cards and sold them to raise nearly $2,000 to purchase towels for the elders in Guatemala and Christmas dinners for the children at the Casa Guatemala Orphanage and the elders.

In addition, the Dream Team organized thousands of shoes and donated them to women in Guatemala, the children at the Casa Guatemala Orphanage, Hispanic women in Sioux City, IA, and the Native American center.

The Dream Team is currently collaborating with the Country Gals and Guys 4-H club and will be hosting a rummage sale on May 20 and 21 at the 4-H center where the profits will fund the building of a library in Guatemala.

All middle level and high schools in the U.S., along with all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, Red Cross chapters, YMCAs, Camp Fire USA councils and Volunteer Centers, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award last November. Local honorees were then reviewed by state-level judges, who selected two state honorees plus a select number of finalists from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on criteria such as personal initiative.

, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

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