David Resnick of Roswell, a senior at Centennial High School, was named Georgia's top high school youth volunteer of 2013 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
The 18-year-old student was joined by Piney Grove Middle School student Kelsey Hirsch, 13, of Cumming, with the top designation.
As state honorees, Resnick and Hirsch each will receive $1,000, engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips to Washington, D.C., where they will join 100 other top youth volunteers from across the United States for four days of national recognition events, according to a release by Prudential.
Resnick was nominated for the award by Centennial High School in Roswell. He plays a leadership role in an organization that throws an annual holiday party for more than 750 children from homeless shelters throughout Atlanta.
When David was 10, his sister asked the guests at her bat mitzvah celebration to bring books for homeless kids, and he helped deliver them to a local shelter.
“I loved seeing how happy those people were to receive the gifts,” he said.
Three years later, he decided to do something similar at his bar mitzvah, but asked his guests to bring toys instead of books.
Just before his event, Resnick read about a local girl who years earlier had used her bat mitzvah gift money to put on a holiday party for children at a homeless shelter, and then turned the idea into an annual event called “Amy’s Holiday Party.”
“I was so excited about what Amy had created that I contacted her to tell her that I would donate all the toys that I collected to her organization,” he said.
She responded by inviting David to serve on the teen leadership committee that oversees her holiday parties, which have grown into huge events for more than 750 children, with a DJ-led dance party, carnival games, a catered lunch and two brand-new toys for each child.
As a teen leader, David visits shelters, brainstorms ideas, helps fundraise, interacts with local philanthropists, and plans the logistics of each holiday party. He also has been a peer facilitator for students with disabilities at his school, and has collected candy for U.S. troops, volunteered at the Atlanta Food Bank, and mentored a child with autism in his Hebrew class.
Ben Bearup, 14, of Alpharetta and Shaun Verma, 17, of Milton were recognized as distinguished finalists.
- Ben Bearup, 14, of Alpharetta, an eighth-grader at Webb Bridge Middle School, co-founded “Sheltering Books,” a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 155,000 gently-used books to homeless shelters in the United States, as well as to schools in need in other countries, VA hospitals and the military.
- Shaun Verma, 17, of Milton, a senior at Milton High School, founded “MDJunior,” an organization that brings together medical professionals with middle and high school students in underserved communities to help inspire children. Shaurya has raised more than $40,000 to support the organization, which today has 20 chapters in seven states, 114 mentors and nearly 600 participating students.
- Kelsey Hirsch, 13, of Cumming, Georgia's middle level state honoree, was honored for selling more than $14,000 worth of silicone wristbands to help the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) respond to a recent surge in call volume from victims of sexual violence.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is part of a national program honoring middle level and high school students for outstanding volunteer service.
The program also recognized four other Distinguished Finalists from Georgia:
- Julia Abelsky, 18, of Atlanta
- Mary Claire Birdsong, 18, of Augusta
- Chase Czaykowsky, 15, of Lawrenceville
- Sara McCorkle, 17, of Claxton
The Distinguished Finalists each will receive engraved bronze medallions.