Samantha Kerker of Boca Raton Named One of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers
By: Guadalupe Monarrez
Samantha Kerker, 17, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers for 2012 in the 17th Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. In February, Kerker was chosen to represent Florida as one of the top youth volunteers in each state and the District of Columbia. On Sunday May 6th, she was officially recognized at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where she was awarded with $1,000 and personal congratulations from New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. In a separate ceremony, conducted at the U.S Chamber of Commerce, the Prudential Awards recognized the top 10 youth volunteers from 102 State Honories and 26,000 applicants. Samantha was chosen among those individuals and received a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from the Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
“Throughout the weekend, everyone shared their stories about their charitable efforts. I felt insignificant compared to them. I remember being depressed the whole day because I felt like I would not win. I did not have one ounce of expectation that I would win the award. When I heard my name and walked up to receive the award, I was in tears and in complete shock,” said Kerker.
Kerker, a junior and International Baccalaureate candidate at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, started her own nonprofit tye-dye business as part of a school assignment. She was able to raise nearly $7,000, but she had a hard time deciding where she wanted to donate the proceeds. Inspired by Lynn University students and faculty who lost their lives in Haiti’s devestating earthquake while aiding the poor, she decided to donate the proceeds to help build a home for a homeless family in Nicaragua.
“I traveled with my mom to Nicaragua, it was a very humbling experience for both of us. We lived and breathed what it is like to live in a third world country. But, what I enjoyed the most was seeing how humble the families were. Only one family would receive a home, but the others were so excited and happy for their neighbors to have a new home. It was priceless to witness,” expressed Kerker.
When she returned to Florida, she shared her experiences of Nicaragua with her friends. She was shocked to find out how little they knew about poverty in third world countries. Kerker wanted to give every student the opportunity to learn about poverty in a local and international level.
She proposed to begin a “Students for the Poor” club in each of the 28 high schools located in Palm Beach County. She met with the school district’s superintendent and the principal of each high school. The idea was a success, nearly 450 students joined the club at Atlantic High School and there are more than 1,000 students involved in the 28 clubs throughout the county.
“My goal is to be able to raise enough money so that we can sponsor students to take a trip to a third world country. There is no feeling like physically being there. We want a melting pot of students from all 28 high schools in the county to be able to go, people that are deserving of having the experience. I want to inspire them to do something once they return to the states” explained Kerker.
Kelly Bruce, Kerker’s guidance counselor, acknowledged her charitable success,“We are so proud of Samantha. Not only has she raised money and traveled to Nicaragua, but she has taught other students the importance of making a difference in the world. Sami’s determination to help others and raise global awareness is inspirational.”
Currently, Kerker was accepted into the Leadership in the Business World summer program at the University of Pennsylvania. She aspires to be admitted into the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a career in business, while engaging in civic work.
If you would like to donate to the “Students for the Poor” club or sponsor a student for a trip to a third world country, contact Samantha Kerker at firstname.lastname@example.org.