Benjamin Stoddert Middle School seventh grader Alyssa Gerhart was recently selected as the 2016 top Maryland middle school youth volunteer in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. The nationwide program honors young people for outstanding volunteerism and community service. Only two students in Maryland are selected annually for this recognition – one middle school student and one high school student.
Gerhart, as well as the Maryland high school youth volunteer selected from Wicomico County, is now in the running for one of five national top volunteer awards. National honorees are chosen from state level award recipients and will be announced May 2 at The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards gala ceremony. Five middle school national honorees will be selected, and five high school national honorees will be chosen.
Gerhart was nominated for the award by Stoddert Principal Kenneth Schroeck for her efforts in organizing food drives and donations for a community organization called Our Place. Gerhart works alongside family members at Our Place Waldorf, a local soup kitchen. Her mother was a co-founder of Our Place three years ago and Gerhart got involved from the start.
During initial meetings to launch Our Place, Gerhart volunteered to hand out information and sign in community members who attended the meetings. She assisted during interviews with potential Board members. Since Our Place opened three years ago, Gerhart has volunteered to help collect food, raise money and also works at the soup kitchen doing things such as cooking, serving food, setting up and cleaning tables. Gerhart has also recruited several of her peers to volunteer at Our Place and coordinates food drives for donated items so guests of Our Place can take items with them after their visit.
Our Place operates out of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church and hosts a Thursday night dinner program for the public. Gerhart’s goal is to help raise funding to support a permanent location for Our Place. “As we know, people aren’t hungry only one day a week,” Gerhart said. In April, Our Place will add a Monday night dinner program to its community offerings.
In addition to her commitment to serving the community, Gerhart also is an excellent role model student. She earns honor roll grades, participates in the chess and builders clubs, and is the co-vice president of the student government association and history fair winner. She is also a member of Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA), VEX Robotics, SeaPerch and the Rising Educators program.
Additionally, Gerhart is a Carson Scholar. The Carson Scholars Fund awards college scholarships to a select group of high achieving students in grades four through 11 who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and humanitarian qualities. She also has received recognition through the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution essay contests.
As a state honoree, Gerhart receives $1,000 and a silver medallion. She will travel to Washington, D.C., in May and participate in program events that include a visit to Capitol Hill and the awards gala at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Students selected at the national level receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, a crystal trophy and $5,000 from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Prudential Financial in 1995 to honor both middle and high school students for outstanding acts of community service. The program is the largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. Visit www.nassp.org/spirit for additional program information.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.