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Roosevelt High, Beaverton kids earn kudos, scholarships for helping community

COURTESY PHOTO: PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL - Kaiya Laguardia, 18, from Portlands Roosevelt High School, was honored for a documentary film she made. COURTESY PHOTO: PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL - Jacob Van, 13, a seventh grader at International School of Beaverton, raised money for local cancer patients.

A student from Roosevelt High School and one from the International School of Beaverton were honored for their volunteer service in a national award program.

Kaiya Laguardia, 18, and Jacob Van, 13, were among 100 students recognized for their volunteer work during the 25th annual, and first virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The 100 youth volunteers were given $2,500 each to donate to a local nonprofit organization that is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. That's on top of a $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Prudential's top youth volunteers of 2020.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named Laguardia and Van Oregon's top high school and middle level youth volunteers.

Laguardia, a senior at Roosevelt High School, produced a 30-minute documentary film titled "Our Island's Treasure," to raise awareness of the planned construction of a military base in Okinawa, Japan, and the movement opposing the project on the island.

Laguardia's mother was born on Okinawa, and Kaiya said she feels a deep connection to the island. So when she learned that many islanders were protesting the building of a new U.S. military base on landfill in Oura Bay, "I had to see it for myself," she said.

"When I got to Henoko, elders were lying in the streets blocking bulldozers," she said.

Laguardia also learned that the bay is the second-most biodiverse ocean habitat in the world and that construction of the proposed base would have a profound impact on its ecosystem and the lifestyle of Okinawans.

Van, a seventh grader at International School of Beaverton, raised money to help a local woman and boy pay for cancer treatments and to provide hundreds of warm clothing items as Christmas presents for people experiencing homelessness in downtown Portland.

Van is motivated, he said, by "my desire to help out the less fortunate. Every time I volunteer, I get a good feeling."

"Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment," Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial said in an announcement.

"Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?" he added.

Normally, the students get a paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the awards event, but the trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the celebration was held online.

"We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director and CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives."

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