Sanford High School junior Grace Davie was selected this week as one of Maine’s two top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.
As a state Honoree, Grace will receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.
Grace, a junior at Sanford High School, serves as the student representative for the Sanford Backpack Program, which provides food to students from food-insecure households, and created an initiative that presented nearly 250 families with boxes of holiday treats and other items this past December. Grace got involved in the backpack program at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I realized that I had more time than I thought I had,” she said, “and began to think about how I was spending my time and was it meaningful?” When she learned that the pandemic was making the need for food-filled backpacks more critical than ever, Grace began volunteering every Thursday to get food out to students with limited access to reliable food sources.
By autumn, she had been appointed to the backpack program’s advisory board, and began wondering what she could do to make the Christmas season special for the program’s clients. “I wanted to come up with a way for them to experience joy in a holiday season that might present more obstacles than normal,” she said. Her conclusion: a “box of Joy” filled with holiday treats, basic food items, paper goods, toiletries and other gifts. With the assistance of her mother and sister, Grace collected empty banana boxes from a supermarket, decorated them, and then asked sponsors in the community to fill them with 30 items from a list she provided. Although her initial goal was to assemble 100 boxes, Grace ended up brightening the holiday for more than 245 families with her “boxes of joy.”