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Teens Win $1,000 and Make a Difference by Focusing on Diabetes

Teens Win $1,000 and Make a Difference by Focusing on Diabetes
Teens Win $1,000 and Make a Difference by Focusing on Diabetes

We have been hearing a lot about a national youth volunteer awards program, which has recognized many projects from middle and high school students that focus on diabetes. It’s the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the largest youth volunteer awards program since 1995, which has honored more than 120,000 youth volunteers at the local, state and national level who have made a difference in their communities.

Two of the 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards state winners who peaked our interest dedicated their volunteer work towards diabetes.

Anna Katherine Tollett of Ruston, age 17 from Louisiana, has worked for the past eight years to help kids like her, those with Type 1 diabetes. She has worked to raise funds, awareness, support and to find a cure for this disease. At first, Anna Katherine like many diagnosed, was overwhelmed with all that came with diabetes, but learned to lean on the support of family and friends, “I became determined to reach out to those living with diabetes, and challenge the public perception of the disease,” she said.

It didn’t take long for her to get involved. The day after leaving the hospital she was participating in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) annual fundraising walk and has since led a team of her own. With her father’s help, Anna Katherine shot a 30-second PSA about diabetes that has been viewed more than 16,000 times and won the top prize in a national contest. She has successfully lobbied her state legislature to make it easier for kids to manage diabetes while at school and has even taken her efforts to D.C., taking part in lobbying efforts that secured millions of dollars for diabetes research. Anna Katherine hasn’t let her Type 1 diagnosis stop her — she has even created a foundation that helps kids and their families following their diagnoses.

There’s also 14-year old Hiawatha, Kansas native, Sydney Smith. She raised nearly $1,800 for diabetes research through donations and selling homemade crafts in conjunction with the JDRF annual fundraising walk in Kansas City. Sydney has Type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed at just 16 months old. Currently Type 1 diabetes has no cure and 40,000 people are diagnosed each year. “In my middle school alone, I am one of two Type 1 diabetics. So my reason for fundraising really hits home,” she said.

Sydney serves as captain of her walk team in JDRF’s One Walk in Kansas City. With the help of her friends and family she has been able to do a great deal of fundraising and donating. She is happy to share her personal journey living with diabetes. Her hard work, raising money by painting quotes on canvasses and spraying designs on T-shirts has truly made a difference.

If you or someone you know is making a difference like Anna Katherine or Sydney, applications are officially open for the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, until November 7th. Students in grades 5-12 who have volunteered in the past year are invited to apply at

Applications can be certified for state-level judging by a middle level or high school principal or the head of a local Girl Scout council, county 4-H group, American Red Cross chapter, YMCA or affiliate of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network. On February 6, 2018, state-level honorees in every state and the District of Columbia will be announced.

They will earn $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for national recognition events, to be held this year from April 28-May 1, 2018. In Washington, 10 of those students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018, earning prizes including $5,000 in both personal awards and Prudential Foundation grants for charities of their choice.

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About the author

Matt Schmidt

Matt’s father was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 and since then has been determined to help educate others about diabetes. Matt currently lives in Pittsburg, PA with his wife and two children.

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