Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All American Teams Service Awards Highlight Contributions to Community

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Elizabeth Vlahos, Defense Media Activity – Anacostia

June 24, 2010 - WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy Recruiting Command was a sponsoring organization of Parade Magazine's High School All America Teams Service Awards at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building June 23.

The All America Teams Service Awards are an annual recognition of high school students who performed community service projects as an extra curricular activity. Each member of the All America High School Service Team has made an impact on his or her community by spearheading projects to include mentoring, food drives, readiness training for homeless and at-risk teens, prescription drug abuse prevention, and knitting hats for cancer patients, to name a few.

"To think that what you're doing at 13, 14, 15 and 16 years old is just absolutely amazing," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his address to the winners. "I think that what you do at 27, 47, and 67 makes me incredibly hopeful for the future."

The annual ceremony recognizes and celebrates the top schools, teams and students as determined by The LEAGUE, a non-profit organization that aims to promote volunteerism and community service by establishing service teams in all high schools.

"People ask me all the time why I volunteer, and that's a very difficult question to answer," said Katherine Stone of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who was recognized for her work with Save Our Cats and Kittens Shelter (SOCKS). "The work is hard, and the stories you hear are even harder. But when you're there and you get the call that Miracle's going to be okay, or you see [a little girl's] face when her grandmother says she can pick out a kitten to keep…that's when you realize that even though it says 'non-profit' above the door, it's really a very profitable experience.

"My high school football coach always said, take pride in what you have [and] what you will have, and what you own," said Zachary George Swiatko of Racine, Wisc., who was recognized for creating Operation Underwear to collect undergarments and socks for homeless people in nearby Kenosha, as well as socks for deployed troops. "I took responsibility for the unmet need in my community. Women and children needed these undergarments, and soldiers in Iraq needed socks. Someone needed to take action and do it, and I decided to do it.

The Navy's sponsorship of the awards ceremony is geared toward establishing relationships with key influencers and recognizing student achievement in creating a better world through volunteer action.

"It's very important that the Navy continue to reinforce involvement in the community," said Cmdr. Brent Phillips, director of advertising and marketing for Navy Recruiting Command at Millington, Tenn. "Whether we're bringing aid across the beach for an earthquake-ridden country or we're collecting food in a local food drive to help out, this is a natural extension of what we do as Sailors. That mentorship, that involvement, being a teacher and being an interested member of your community is absolutely critical to our mission."

After the awards ceremony, the winners toured the White House and were honored at a private ceremony after the tour.

"This is a very, very good thing to do at a time when we have a President of the United States who got started by service to the community," said Vice President Joe Biden to the winners. "This stuff doesn't happen by accident. The fact of the matter is, you guys fill us with genuine pride.

"I have found that [the people] I most admire in community, in government, in business - they're the people who don't preach a sermon, they act [it out]. They actually go out and do things, no matter what you think people are thinking."

Phillips had some insight on how sponsoring events such as the awards ceremony reflected the mission.

"It adds to us being 'A Global Force For Good,'" said Phillips.

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