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Troutdale sixth-grader Emily Pascu was recently honored with a Gold Award from American Heritage Girls for completing more than 100 hours of community service in one year.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON CONNECTIONS ACADEMY  - Emily Pascu and her American Heritage Girls troop planted American flags on the graves of about 100 military veterans on Memorial Day at the Douglass Cemetery in Troutdale.  Troutdale sixth-grader Emily Pascu was recently honored with a Gold Award from American Heritage Girls for completing more than 100 hours of community service in one year.

Emily, who attends the online Oregon Connections Academy, received the Gold President's Volunteer Service Award at a ceremony Monday, June 10, at the Harvest Christian Church in Troutdale. Several other local girls received awards from the scouting-type organization, as well, including:

• Lillian Strong from Gresham and Shyanne Laney from Troutdale earned a Silver President's Volunteer Service Award for volunteering at least 75 hours.

• Audrey and Grace Velasco from Troutdale and Gracyn Reed from Estacada earned Bronze President's Volunteer Service Award by volunteering at least 50 hours.

American Heritage Girls is a Christian faith-based scouting-type program. The Gold Award is the highest level award a Heritage Girl can receive.

"With our family, volunteering is part of who we are," said Emily's mom, Nafeesa Pascu. "Once our daughter got old enough to be helpful, she did what we do."

Emily is an assistant in the church's Sunday school, earning the bulk of her hours.

"She loves working with the younger kids," Pascu said.

In fact, the work has led Emily to be interested in becoming a teacher or youth pastor when she grows up.

Emily, who has worked at various other events in the Troutdale area and beyond, planted flags on veterans graves on Memorial Day. She also helped pack and wrap over 150 shoeboxes with supplies and small gifts for Operation Christmas Child, an international effort by nonprofit Samaritan's Purse and helped deliver Thanksgiving baskets for needy local families. 

She joined a group that caroled and gave out Christmas cards at retirement communities and spent 20 to 30 hours helping plan, set up and work at the harvest carnival at Harvest Christian Church, which draws about 1,500 community members.

Pascu said the fact that Emily attends the online Oregon Connections Academy makes it easier for her to do volunteer work. The flexible schedule allows her to volunteer during hours that would otherwise be prohibitive if she attended a brick-and-mortar school with regular hours.

In once instance, Emily and her dad completely reorganized a food pantry serving students at Multnomah University during business hours, work that would not be possible if she attended a regular school.

Last year Emily received the Silver Award for 50 hours of community service. In addition to a certificate of achievement and medallion, award winners also receive a letter of congratulations from the President of the United States.

"Now, for her, service is a thing. It's part of who she is," Pascu said.


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