Comparatively few teenagers have the vision to establish a nonprofit organization. Few others have the logistical know-how to coordinate a public event with local businesses and news media.
But 16-year-old Malcolm Asher and 14-year-old Irie Page, both of Portland, Oregon, are not average teenagers. Last Sunday, the pair received national honors in Washington, D.C., for exceptional service to their communities. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, established by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), judged Malcolm and Irie to be Oregon’s most committed high school and middle school volunteers.
The teens enjoyed a dinner reception at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and accepted $1,000 awards from Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, who commended them for their service.
Both young adults earned their accolades for demonstrating “leadership and determination well beyond their years,” according to John Strangfeld, CEO of Prudential Financial. “[It’s] a privilege to celebrate their service,” he said.
Malcolm, a junior at Cleveland High School, established a not-for-profit foundation which helps hospitalized children all over the world create and share artwork with their peers. Malcolm volunteered at a children’s hospital in Portland and witnessed how drawing and painting helped young patients overcome the anxiety associated with a hospital stay. “I could plainly see what a lift this provided to kids who were feeling anxious and scared,” he told KATU news.
This experience motivated Malcolm to found ArtPass, which distributes art kits to hospitalized youth. The organization operates in 11 countries worldwide and encourages young people in developing nations to seek medical care, rather than delay treatment due to anxiety about a hospital stay.
Meanwhile, Irie hosted a nationally recognized author and educator at a free public event designed to inform teens about safe dating practices. Irie raised funds for the author’s speaking fee by establishing a GoFundMe account and securing sponsorships from local businesses. Portland State University provided a recital hall for the event, and local news media publicized the occasion.
As a result of Irie’s efforts, about 500 teens and their parents came to the program, prompting the author to waive his speaking fee. Irie subsequently offered the funds to local organizations which strive to eliminate sexual violence.
In summing up the awards ceremony at the Smithsonian, NASSP president Daniel P. Kelley told attendees that teens like Malcolm and Irie show that “one student really can make a difference. We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive, and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”