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  • Writer's pictureNEIA Red Cross

Local Youth Volunteer Honored for Service

Over the past year, as the world experienced pandemic, we have seen people step up to help their neighbors, support those in need and serve their community. That includes 15-year old Omaha student Mahika Kanchanam.

Mahika, a sophomore at Millard North High School in Omaha, has been selected as Nebraska’s top High School youth volunteer by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer services. She was nominated for this honor by the American Red Cross Serving the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metro Area.

Mahika helped protect healthcare workers in her community from COVID-19 by providing more than 4,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to five Omaha-area hospitals, and raised $1,400 for a local food bank by selling hand-sewn cloth face masks. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahika heard “horrific” stories of healthcare workers in in other areas of the country who had to work without adequate protection.

“I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines,” she said. “Healthcare workers were risking their lives for us. The least we could do is equip the with PPE.”

She began researching how to sew face masks and other protective gear, bought supplies and started sewing. To amplify her effort, she recruited four other sewing volunteers, appealed for donations on GoFundMe, and reached out to procure PPE items from supplies in other states and countries. Ultimately, Mahika was able to deliver to local hospitals more than 4,000 PPE items, including face masks, face shields, scrub caps, eye protection and ear savers. In addition, she donated 70 sewn face masks to her school district, and sold 200 more to provide meals at a local food bank.

As a State Honoree, Mahika receives a $2,500 scholarship, an engraved silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteer of the year.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annual by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contribution to their communities through volunteer service.

“We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world- a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of the last year,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s’ chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they’re making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.”

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