Harrison Barnes, age 17, and Shelby Farris, 13, of Bridgeville, were named Delaware's top two youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
As state honorees, Harrison and Shelby will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each state and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2019.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, in its 24th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Barnes is a senior at Woodbridge High School. Barnes founded a nonprofit organization called “GearUp” that promotes bicycle riding as a way for young people to overcome personal challenges. He does this by refurbishing and giving away free used bikes, offering prizes for reaching weekly cycling goals, hosting an annual multi-state bicycle event for children of military families, and mentoring young cyclists who have physical or developmental disabilities.
When Barnes was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder as a child, experts said he would probably not graduate from high school or become independent. But at age 12, his parents took him to a bicycle racetrack. As he became a racing enthusiast, Barnes’ social and academic skills improved.
To date, Barnes’ GearUp initiative has recruited mentors to help more than 100 children with disabilities enjoy the benefits of bike riding. He and his partners collected used bikes and refurbished them for kids who cannot afford to buy a bicycle. In summer 2018, more than 120 kids signed up to ride at least 10 hours a week in GearUp’s Summer Bike Challenge, earning prizes and rewards provided by sponsors. And at Harrison’s Grab Life by the Bars event, more than 300 volunteers in nine states helped 1,500 children from military families learn to ride bicycles.
Shelby, an eighth-grader at Woodbridge Middle School, creates pre-printed greeting cards and then encourages people across the country to color them and send them to veterans, hospital patients, the elderly, grieving families and others who need a little cheer in their lives. A few years ago, Shelby’s mother was staffing an event booth asking attendees to make greeting cards for veterans, with relatively little success. At the next event, nearly 100 people created cards.
Realizing that this was a way to use her love of art to serve others, Shelby began creating “Coloring Card” templates and distributing them to individuals and organizations such as Girl Scout troops, American Red Cross chapters, schools, churches, summer camps and children’s hospitals. She also traveled to fairs, festivals and other events to solicit participation in her card project. In addition, Shelby uses a website and social media to suggest other things people can make to brighten someone’s day. So far, she has collected and distributed more than 7,000 coloring cards, and over 3,500 other volunteers have reported completing more than 10,000 projects in concert with Shelby’s “HeartArt” campaign.
The program judges also recognized two other Delaware students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
Kayla Bright, 16, of Middletown, a junior at MOT Charter High School, is a senior cadet-member at the Delaware City Volunteer Fire Company, where she helps people involved in medical or disaster situations and assists new cadets during their training. Inspired by her great-grandfather, who served in the department for 75 years, Bright joined the moment she was eligible at age 14; she has taken numerous classes to develop her skills in firefighting, vehicle rescue, hazmat awareness and more.
Jacqueline Means, 16, of Wilmington, a junior at Delaware Military Academy, founded the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative to inspire a love of science, technology, engineering and math among girls in need in her hometown. Through WUSI events, she has brought hands-on science experiments, interactive anti-bullying demonstrations, inspiring talks from prominent women and a vision of a brighter future to more than 300 girls.
For more, visit spirit.prudential.com.