Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympic Snowboarding Champion Seth Wescott Pay Tribute to Lovelock and Las Vegas Students as Part of Four-Day Recognition Events
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Two Nevada students, Bridgett McLean, 18, of Lovelock and Elizabeth Keane, 13, of Las Vegas, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer work during the presentation of The 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The two young people – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympic snowboarding champion Seth Wescott at the 15th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Bridgett and Elizabeth were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Nevada last February. In addition to their cash awards, they received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
“The Prudential Spirit of Community honorees give us great hope for the future,” said Dr. Rice. “Their compassion and commitment are already making a real difference in so many lives, and I have no doubt that their leadership will continue to positively impact the world for many years to come.”
Bridgett, a senior at Pershing County High School, assembled 32 “Code Red” kits for all of the classrooms in her town’s elementary school to make students and teachers safer and more comfortable in the event of an emergency “lockdown.” Bridgett thought of the project when a warning bell sounded in her high school one day, signifying that either a drill or an emergency was taking place at the elementary school. “This frightened me, knowing that my little brother could possibly be in danger,” she said. She wanted teachers and children to be fully prepared in case of a true emergency.
Bridgett came up with the idea of packing the essential items a classroom would need in an emergency lockdown into a five-gallon bucket, which could also serve as a portable toilet. With input from the elementary school’s safety committee and law enforcement officials, Bridgett decided to include first aid and evacuation supplies, food and water, CPR masks, blankets, whistles, and kitty litter. She wrote letters to secure donations of many supplies, but also had to purchase items with money from her Girl Scout cookie sales. When the completed buckets were presented at the elementary school, Bridgett trained teachers in how to use them. She also wrote and distributed a brochure advising parents on what to do if their child’s school experienced a “Code Red.” “In a worst-case scenario, the Code Red kits could possibly save a child’s life,” said Bridgett.
Elizabeth, an eighth-grader at Tarkanian Middle School, started a school in her backyard where neighborhood children who are struggling academically can come for a few hours every Saturday for help with their studies. Elizabeth was so inspired by her second-grade teacher that she began building desks out of cardboard boxes and made her brother and cousins play school with her on Sunday afternoons. When she became serious about teaching, she started conducting lessons for her siblings in her grandparents’ house. As word spread, other kids asked to attend the classes, so Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents helped her build a one-room schoolhouse in her backyard.
Now, Elizabeth teaches about 10 kids ranging from 4 to 12 years old in her schoolhouse every Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. She creates and executes lesson plans for the various levels of her students, and works with them individually to address particular academic needs, striving to make learning fun and interesting. Her classes also help the students build self-esteem and make new friends, said Elizabeth. “Helping these kids find joy in learning has inspired me to continue this school long term,” she said.