Young Volunteer Earns Four Awards
by LeeAnn Bisulca
Homeschooler Hosanna Kabakoro of Twin Falls, Idaho, is being honored with not one, not two or three, but four awards for volunteer service in her community. The 16-year-old is a state honoree for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, won her community’s Jefferson Award, just received her Girl Scout Gold Award, and also earned a Gold Congressional Award Medal, for volunteer activities ranging from tutoring at local elementary schools to walking dogs for an animal shelter. Other activities have included raising money for a new library youth wing, teaching English to refugees, babysitting for single moms, and volunteering at a pregnancy crisis center.
Hosanna Kabakoro with Laura Bush at the Prudential Spirit of Community State Awards ceremony, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on May 3, 2009.
Hosanna’s volunteering got its start when her father, Ratu Kabakoro, began pastoring a church in Idaho, after the family had spent years as missionaries in Fiji. “When we first arrived, there was that initial ‘Poor me, I don’t know anyone, I’m just going to stay home all the time,’ ” Hosanna recalls. “My parents wouldn’t allow it.” Hosanna’s mother, Summer, called the local library and discovered that her 13-year-old daughter was old enough to be on the teen advisory board. “I started off with just the library, and then I moved on to the animal shelter, and then the pregnancy crisis center, and it snowballed from there,” says Hosanna. “It’s something that I love to do. Volunteering is a great way to get into your community and meet people of all different ages.”
Participants in the Congressional Award program set goals for themselves in four categories: volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration. They then earn a bronze, silver, or gold certificate or medal based on the number of hours invested in each category. Similarly, the Girl Scout Gold Award honors Girl Scouts ages 14–18 for carrying out a community project that demonstrates leadership and citizenship (Hosanna spearheaded a program that helps refugees with language and job skills). These awards came as no surprise, but the other two were unexpected.
Hosanna became one of Idaho’s two honorees for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award after being nominated by the Twin Falls School District, where Hosanna tutors during and after school. This award recognizes not only Hosanna’s tutoring, but also her presentations to local groups of young teens on how to use the internet and technology responsibly. “I work with the superintendent’s wife as a reading volunteer in her classroom, and they have been very supportive of me and my home education!” says Hosanna; it was the superintendent who nominated her for the Prudential award. As a state honoree, Hosanna attended the national award ceremony in Washington, D.C., in early May, where ten honorees were chosen as America’s top youth volunteers.
Hosanna’s mentor, Sandy Qualls, nominated her for the Jefferson Award, which recognizes community and public service across America. As the winner of the Jefferson Award for her community, Hosanna was then chosen by the Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors to attend the Washington, D.C., national award ceremony at the end of June, although she will not be able to attend due to a previous commitment to attend Girl’s State.
Hosanna, who has been homeschooled since kindergarten (except for attending private school during 7th grade), says that learning at home has allowed much more scope for her volunteering activities. “Being homeschooled opens up time. It’s flexible, so you can do it in the morning, or do it in the afternoon and volunteer in the morning. The other plus is, you’re not around people that are just your age eight hours a day. You’re comfortable communicating and interacting with people of all ages, which is what you do when you go into the real world.” Hosanna has found this to be especially beneficial for community service, since she is sometimes the youngest volunteer among a group of adults.
While Hosanna has long-term plans to earn an undergraduate degree and possibly continue in pre-law, the next item on her agenda is to keep on volunteering. “There’s nothing greater you can do than to serve your community,” she says. “My motto is, It takes all of us to do what we are all called to do.”
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