Olathe Northwest senior Cassie Wang is known locally for helping people in need. But now she is being recognized nationally as one of two Kansas recipients of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
The award honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism and was given to only 102 students nationwide. Wang will receive a $1,000 cash prize and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May. She was nominated for the award by administrators at Olathe Northwest High School.
“This is such a huge honor, especially since I know there are so many young people out there making a difference,” Wang said.
Wang first began raising money for others in 2011 when she used her golf skills to help victims of the Joplin tornado. She raised $1,000 through the American Junior Golf Association’s Birdies for Charity Program.
But she didn’t stop there. She went on to lead community blood drives and eventually formed a nonprofit group made up of students called the Youth Hope Fund. The group raised $8,000 for an impoverished sister school in China.
“We gathered corporate sponsorships, held benefit luncheons, raffles, car washes and bake sales,” Wang said. “We all worked very hard.”
Wang will begin college at Harvard University in the fall. She plans on staying involved with the organization that she founded, but is working to establish new executive board positions so that the group’s fundraising efforts will continue while she’s away at school. She believes strongly in bringing young people together not only to raise more money, but to give other students an opportunity to build their own leadership skills.
“From what I have learned, the more teenagers you can bring together, the greater amount of good you can do,” Wang said.
Wang isn’t the only Johnson County student to be recognized for helping others. Blue Valley high school senior Blake Carnes and Heritage Christian Academy junior Anna Lipscomb were named as finalists for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Carnes was a sophomore at Blue Valley West high school when she founded Blake’s Closet in 2010 to collect and distribute clothing to individuals in need. The project was so successful that Carnes quickly found herself filling up the storage space that was provided to her at a Stanley church. Today, she still finds herself short of storage space.
“We put stuff wherever we can,” Carnes said. “We are using storage units. We have two extra bedrooms where we put stuff. The clothes just keep coming in.”
Carnes is currently running four simultaneous food and toiletry drives to benefit people in the Kansas City metropolitan area. One of the drives is to collect toothbrushes and toothpaste for students in the Kansas City, Kan., School District.
Despite the overflowing closets, Carnes is thrilled by the success of her fundraising efforts.
“I am very pleased with how everything has turned out,” Carnes said. “I am very proud of it. I am just trying to serve the people in my community.”
Anna Lipscomb has made it her mission to help people in a community a little farther away. Lipscomb has raised more than $90,000 for relief for Haiti. She first visited the country with her parents before the devastating earthquake in 2010.
After that first trip, she wrote and recorded a CD called “Heart for Haiti.” But after the earthquake, she began getting speaking requests from youth groups and other organizations. She would share her music as well as her memories of the country. Lipscomb gave donations she received to the Global Orphan Project to assist with the building of orphanages. This May, she will return to the country for the opening of one of them.
“I will get to see and meet the kids for the first time,” Lipscomb said. “I am so excited to go back.”
Lipscomb said she plans to continue her fundraising efforts in Haiti. She would like to now focus her efforts on raising money for the oldest residents of the orphanage.
“I would like to find some way to help get them educated,” Lipscomb said. “To help them get into a trade school so that they can get a job and make a living.”