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Sass among ‘top two’ youth volunteers

By Staff | Feb 21, 2009

One of our brightest hopes for a better tomorrow is 11-year-old Haley Sass of Frost.

The daughter of Glen and Kim Sass, Haley was named one of Minnesota’s top two youth volunteers for 2009 on Feb. 10 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 14th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. More than 5,000 local honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel. Sass was selected for one of the top two spots by the panel based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

Her congratulatory award letter expresses how impressed the judges were with Haley’s outstanding volunteer work. It states how Prudential Financial wishes to thank her for her compassionate dedication to improving the lives of others. The letter goes on to say “the kind of vision and commitment you have demonstrated is extremely important to the future of our neighborhoods, our cities, and our nation. Young volunteers like yourself are inspiring examples to all of us; you are our brightest hopes for a better tomorrow.”

Based on the number of volunteer hours indicated on Haley’s application, she also has qualified for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country. A President’s Volunteer Service certificate and a letter from the president will soon be sent to the 11-year-old Sass.

Last fall, Sass earned the Bronze Award, the highest Junior Girl Scout honor a girl in grades three to six can achieve. She is one of fewer than 10 girls who have ever earned the Bronze Award in the county.

Haley currently is a member of the Faribault County 4-H and a sixth grader at the Blue Earth Area Middle School. She has volunteered two days a week for the Frost Community Library’ssummer reading program for the past two years, reading to children and conducting fun activities for them.

“I have always enjoyed the library,” says Haley. “I wanted to improve attendance and let kids know all the things you can do there.”

On Tuesdays, Haley selected books and spent an hour reading to pre-school to fifth grade children. On Thursdays, she planned activities for them, such as painting, drawing, dancing and making crafts. At other times, Haley learned how to check books in and out and how to find and order books using an online catalog.

Haley did such a good job, Frost librarian, Shellie Poetter, asked her to continue volunteering at special library events throughout the year. Haley says her volunteering encouraged more children to make use of the library.

“Some of the children in Frost had never been in the library,” says an amazed Sass. “Now they bring their friends there.”

As a result of winning the national award, Sass will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C. May 2-5, paid by Prudential Financial.

While in the nation’s capital, Sass and the other 101 state honorees from throughout the country will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.

In addition, Sass is in the running to be named one of the National Honorees on May 4. These volunteers will receive an additional $5,000 award, a gold medallion, crystal trophy and $5,000 grants from the Prudential Foundation to be awarded to the non-profit, charitable organization of the recipients choice.

Sass originally found out about the award through her 4-H newsletter. Called the ‘Spirit Award,’ she showed the article to Charlene Lincoln, a Frost resident, who looked it up on the internet.

“Charlene said Haley shouldn’t get her hopes up, but she should apply for it,” says Haley’s mother, Kim. Shortly after this, librarian Shellie Poetter helped Haley with the application process.

In addition to the volunteer hours spent at the Frost Library, Sass also helped in the concession stand operated by the Frost Community Club during the tractor pulls. As part of United in Faith’s Youth group, she also sold luminaries for Faribault County’s ‘Relay for Life’ cancer walk benefit.

In the weeks ahead, Haley will be recognized at a Mar. 21 luncheon and on April 4 by the Frost Dinner Theater. For more information about these events contact Charlene Lincoln in Frost.

Haley has much paperwork yet to complete. She also will be making a three to five minute DVD presentation on her topic ‘How to be a Leader in Your Community.’ This will relate to the volunteer work she has performed for Frost in the past two years.

Another volunteer task she is undertaking before heading to Washington, D.C. is a book drive. It is her hope to take donated books with her which will be distributed to children in kindergarten through sixth grade there. She also hopes to gather enough books to give to Blue Earth Elementary students at the close of the school year as a means of promoting the summer reading programs in Faribault County’s public libraries.

More information regarding the book drive will be forthcoming.

Haley Sass continues to optimistically see numerous ways to be a leader in her community. She has truly made a difference in other people’s lives through her volunteer efforts.