Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., State Superintendent of Education
Office of Communications & Legislative Support
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR, Director of Communications *601-359-3706 *FAX: 601-359-3033
Jean Cook, Communications Specialist *601-359-3519
For Immediate Release: February 17, 2017
Two Mississippi Students among Nation’s Top Youth Volunteers
JACKSON, Miss. – Two Mississippi students are among a select group of students nationwide who have been recognized as top youth volunteers for 2017 in the 22nd annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. More than 31,000 young people across the country participated in this year’s program.
Luke Kelly, 16, of Water Valley, and Davian Powell, 14, of Lexington have been selected as Mississippi’s top youth volunteers this year. As state honorees, each will receive a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion, and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the program’s national recognition events in May
Luke, a junior at Oxford High School, led an effort to improve a scenic hiking trail in his town and design an educational activity to enhance walkers’ enjoyment of the pathway. When the University Museum at Ole Miss asked Luke’s Boy Scout troop to work on a forest trail that runs from the museum to the historic home of William Faulkner, Luke volunteered to head the project.
“I wanted to do something important that I knew everyone could benefit from,” he said. “Everyone needs to be outside getting exercise and public spaces are free, so I decided to improve a public space.”
After meeting with the museum’s staff, Luke drew up a plan for sprucing up the Bailey’s Woods Trail and designed a nature scavenger hunt that children and families could participate in while walking along the quarter-mile path. Over the course of a year, Luke and his fellow scouts spent countless hours trimming branches along the trail, improving signage, digging post holes, and building a bench to sit on. For his scavenger hunt, Luke created laminated cards and installed boxes to hold them at both ends of the trail. Since the completion of the project, thousands of community members, college students and visitors have enjoyed the trail, and his Boy Scout troop has made a long-term commitment to maintain it.
Davian, an eighth-grader at Williams-Sullivan Elementary School, has earned a reputation across the state for teaching and mentoring other young people to raise and show farm animals, and is a regular volunteer at several community events throughout the year. When he was just a young boy, Davian would help his grandfather feed his cows and watch his older cousin show his goats at 4-H events. Later, he became an active 4-H member and purchased four heifers of his own, and before long was showing his cows at state fairs and other agricultural events.
As word spread about Davian’s skills in the care and handling of cows, he was asked to make presentations at schools and 4-H meetings, and began teaching children how to feed cattle, keep them healthy, and prepare them for shows. He also started helping youth start their own animal-raising programs. In addition, Davian helps children ride horses at an annual “Horses for the Handicapped” event, and volunteers at “Ag Awareness Days,” educating children about where their food comes from.
“It is amazing to watch the smiles on the children’s faces when they touch a cow or pig for the first time,” said Davian.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, are designed to emphasize the importance of service to others and to encourage all young Americans to contribute to their communities.
“Mississippi’s Prudential Spirit awardees have each found ways to turn their passions into meaningful projects that benefit others,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I am extremely proud of these students for working so hard to serve their communities.”