By KATIE BORKOWSKI
EMMETSBURG – Even if service hours weren’t required at Emmetsburg Catholic, Aliza Woodford would still volunteer. The eighth grader is asked to complete 15 hours of service for the year, but she has completed closer to 40 hours as a volunteer.
“I keep doing it because it is fun and it makes other people happy,” Woodford said. “I feel good about myself doing it.”
Woodford has also helped her local 4-H coordinator, Julie Maig, run an afterschool program, Clover Kids, for about 50 elementary school children twice a month throughout the school year.
Because of Woodford’s service to others, the young woman has been named Iowa’s top youth volunteer on the middle level by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring youth people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
As a volunteer for Clover Kids, Woodford helps with two-hour sessions every other week. The program is for kindergarten through third grade students. She passes out nametags, prepares snacks, plays games, supervises science experiments and craft projects and watches the children at recess.
“One time we made a paperclip float (as an experiment),” said Woodford. “Sometimes I get to pick the game they play. For the craft project, we usually get a packet from the Oriental Trading Company. The kids each get their own and we help them put it together.”
Once the children leave, the youth volunteer helps clean up by sweeping the floor and wiping off tables.
“I enjoy teaching the younger kids how to find different things in the world that they like to do,” said Woodford. “I enjoy making the kids happy and always having fun.”
Woodford was nominated for the top volunteer honor by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Palo Alto County in Emmetsburg.
“When I got the envelope, I opened it up,” said Woodford. “My mom pulled out the first paper and read out loud that I had won. I started bawling. I was jumping up and down.”
As an honoree, Woodford will receive $1,000, an engraved, silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C.
“I get to take one parent with me for free,” said the award recipient, who has never been to D.C. “My dad (also) wants to come with, so we have to pay for him to come. I am super excited because I get to see where the president lives and all the national monuments.”
During this trip, Woodford will join the top honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events and 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is now in its 22nd year and is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The Prudential awards represent the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service.