BRUNSWICK — Several Maine teenagers have been recognized for their volunteer work by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a national program honoring young people for outstanding community service.
Maine’s middle-level state honoree is Blakely Austin, an eighth-grader at Brunswick Junior High. The state’s high school honoree is Lillian Sherburne of Boothbay Region High School in Boothbay Harbor.
Two distinguished finalists were also named: Kelly Maguire, a senior at Westbrook High School, and Olivia O’Halloran, a senior at Yarmouth High School.
The awards, now in their 23rd year, are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. All public and private middle school and high schools, along with all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network are eligible to enter a young person.
Austin and Sherburne will each receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in late April. While in Washington, the winners will join the top two honorees from each of the other states for four days of recognition events. Ten of the state winners will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018.
Austin is an eighth-grader at Brunswick Junior High and has completed over 1,200 volunteer hours at the Coastal Humane Society over the past six years. As part of her work, she has fostered more than 75 sick and abandoned cats in her home, work she began when she was only 8 years old.
Her roles at the animal shelter have varied over time, including working at the shelter’s pet adoption events at Brunswick stores, raising over $500 for the facility’s expenses, serving as a counselor at the shelter’s summer camp, and dressing up as the mascot for birthday parties at the shelter.
She has also learned from veterinary technicians about how to administer medication, negotiated adoptions as a certified adoption ambassador, and launched an Instagram page to showcase the animals she fosters.
Austin said she knew the first time she visited Coastal Humane that she wanted to get involved with the organization.
“My grandmother once brought me to the Coastal Humane Society and I saw the animals and I immediately loved all of them,” she said. “I begged my parents to let me start volunteering there, but I wanted to do more.”
After that, she began fostering and adopting cats out of her home as a certified adoption ambassador for the humane society. The comfort of being adopted out of a home is beneficial for cats, Austin said, because when the felines are in the shelter they typically don’t show “their best selves.”
Right now Austin and her family are fostering a pregnant cat named Minnie, who Austin said could give birth “any day now.”
She added she is thankful to her parents for supporting her volunteering and fostering and the Coastal Humane Society staff. Not surprisingly, Austin hopes to be a veterinarian when she is older.
Maguire led an initiative that raised over $1,000 to be put towards funding the education of a boy in Zimbabwe.
Working with a charitable organization, Maguire raised the money by selling as many bracelets as possible at school over the span of two weeks. Maguire also recruited other students to help her, and the resulting money will be enough to fund the boy’s education for almost a year.
O’Hallaran has spent hundreds of hours volunteering with “Art Attack,” a summer camp in Yarmouth that encourages campers to create art from natural resources. She has also mentored an elementary school student and traveled to Peru and the Dominican Republic to help needy children.
Both Maguire and O’Hallaran will be awarded an engraved bronze medallion for their efforts.
Blakely Austin, 14, of Brunswick, has been named one of Maine’s two top youth volunteers by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Austin has volunteered over 1,200 hours of her time at The Coastal Humane Society over the past six years, and fostered 75 cats out of her home.