Three girls at St. Augustine Catholic School in Washington were recently recognized for their dedication to volunteer work, noting motivation that they received from their teachers as the reason for their service.
Jasmine Grooms, an eighth grader at St. Augustine, and Bamlak Yilma, a sixth grader, received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, while Debora Abera, a sixth grader, was honored with a Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Two finalists from each state and the District of Columbia were selected out of 29,000 nominations nationwide to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for their dedication to community service.
Abera, who is one of two students in the Archdiocese of Washington to receive the award, said her teachers told her it is good to volunteer, because it would help in her life and also do good for other people.
When Abera started school at St. Augustine in Washington in pre-K, she did not know very much English, since her family had just moved to the United States from Ethiopia. Now in sixth grade, Abera volunteers regularly to read to younger students and organize books at her local public library.
The school’s principal, Sister Gloria Agumagu, a member of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child, described Abera as “very hardworking, enthusiastic, and ready to learn.”
“The future is very promising for her,” Sister Gloria added.
On Feb. 17, Abera was one of the older students who volunteered to celebrate Black History Month by reading books written by different African American authors to younger students. Abera said she enjoyed doing it because it both helped her improve her reading skills and helped the younger kids learn.
“I enjoy the information in books,” she said. “I enjoy the ones that really tell you a life story.”
Abera also helped serve beverages to homeless people at the Safeway Feast of Sharing, which serves about 5,000 community members at the Mt. Vernon Convention Center around Thanksgiving.
“I enjoyed seeing the happy faces on the homeless people,” she said. On her application for the award, Abera wrote, “Volunteering has been an essential part of my spiritual journey.”
Yilma received the award for the time she dedicated to organizing a coat drive at her church. She came up with the idea for the coat drive while she was answering a school journal prompt about how to help her community.
“…for us who have money, a coat or a slice [of] bread may not mean anything, but to the less fortunate, they could cry just for receiving [them],” she wrote.
Yilma got her family and friends involved in the drive by word of mouth and by handing out flyers, and in the end she collected and donated 250 coats.
Grooms volunteered as a counselor at a Girl Scout day camp, where she took younger children around the camp to different activities, and worked as an activity leader where she taught them about health and fitness.
“I felt that this would be an opportunity to positively influence girls of all ages and all walks of life who may not have had positive role models in their communities,” Grooms wrote in an essay about her volunteer work.
Grooms also volunteered with the American Federation of Government Employees, where her mother works, stuffing envelopes for local elections and signing people in at phone banks.
Grooms enjoys being active in politics, because she said by doing so “you can make a lot of change.” When she is older, she wants to become a lawyer and fight for civil rights.
Sister Gloria, who said her mission is to educate every student, said she is very proud of the girls.
“The children are always ready and willing to listen,” she said. “Their responses make my day.”