Story by Randy LaBauve, LSU AgCenter
BATON ROUGE, La. – Since its inception in 1908, Louisiana 4-H has been known for guiding youth to improve themselves and help others. Two 4-H’ers who have practiced the longstanding tradition of service in an outstanding way were recently recognized for top honors by the 2016 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Stanley Celestine, of Avoyelles Parish, and Ashini Modi, of Caddo Parish, were the top honorees in Louisiana.
The recognition program is America’s largest youth awards event, according to a Prudential press release. The goal of the awards is to honor young people who are making a positive difference in their towns and neighborhoods and to motivate others to follow their example.
“I’m so proud and excited that Louisiana’s state winners are 4-H members,” said Janet Fox, head of the LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development Department. “These youth are putting their hands to larger service and making a positive difference in their communities.”
Celestine, 16, a Cottonport 4-H’er, has been attempting to decrease childhood obesity and improve the general health of his community in an initiative he created called “Healthy Avoyelles.” He applied for grants to conduct events like a festival where poor families received basic health services, a health and wellness walk and healthy cooking seminars for adults and children – events that have reached nearly 2,000 children, according to Celestine.
“I set out to educate families about the health risks associated with child obesity, the many causes, and how to create a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
Modi, 12, a 4-H’er from Shreveport, established a 1,500-book library for children at a local homeless shelter. She collected books from schools, public libraries and thrift shops.
The books were placed in a room at the Providence House shelter. Modi and her family decorated the room with handmade trees and tropical animals, and called it the “Reading Rainforest.”
“I sincerely hope that every child at Providence House will develop a love for books, which can open many new doors for them,” Modi said.
Celestine and Modi will each receive a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D. C., for a national recognition event. The gala award ceremonies will take place at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
The honorees will tour the capital’s historic monuments and landmarks, visit their congressional leaders and take a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. They’ll also hear a talk from a famous public figure. Past speakers have included personalities like Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Jimmy Carter and Magic Johnson.
The following 4-H’ers were distinguished finalists in the awards program: Anna Bell Hines, Orleans Parish; Beverly Brown and Sean Noel, St. Tammany Parish; and Luke Corona, Iberia Parish.
Youth in Louisiana 4-H continue to play a big part in improving communities throughout the state, while developing their own leadership skills. These awards reflect the longstanding 4-H tradition of service, Fox said. “Through these experiences, 4-H is growing civic engagement that will last a lifetime.”
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