Florida’s top two youth volunteers of 2020, Anik Willig, 18, of Miami and Dominic Fouche, 14, of Tampa, were recognized this weekend for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Anik and Dominic – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – were also each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Florida’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 (NASSP), named Anik and Dominic Florida’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
“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,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “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?”
As State Honorees, Anik and Dominic also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program’s annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration this past weekend. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
“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 Bartoletti. “At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives.”
About the Honorees
Anik, a senior at Coral Reef Senior High School, organized a weekly reading program at a homeless shelter, pairing student tutors from her high school with young readers to improve their literacy skills during a time in their lives when academic development is often disrupted.
When Anik was in middle school, she volunteered at the Chapman Partnership Homeless Shelter to help put on a play and found that many of the children there could not read their scripts.
“I soon learned that homeless children experience a lot of inconsistencies in their education as a result of often moving between shelters and subsequently switching schools many times in the period of one year,” said Anik. To address this issue, she created an organization called “H.E.R.O.” (Homeless Empowerment and Reading Opportunities).
Once a week, Anik and students she has recruited through various clubs at school provide one-on-one tutoring for an hour at the homeless shelter. She brings an assortment of books, allowing each child to choose an age-appropriate one. Also, to motivate them, she gives each young reader a token after 15 minutes of reading, which they can use at the end of the session to “purchase” a toy or other item from a gift shop she sets up. In addition to scheduling volunteers and working with the shelter’s staff to coordinate activities, Anik has organized several book and toy drives to keep her program well-supplied. She estimates that she and her volunteers have made a difference in the lives of several hundred children in her community, and has laid the groundwork for nearby counties to adopt similar programs.
Dominic, an eighth-grader at Walker Middle Magnet School, works with his family on the activities of a nonprofit called “Kids 4 A Cause,” with a goal of raising at least $1,000 a month to support a variety of charities and causes.
“I was raised in a family that always placed a high value on community service,” said Dominic.
When his family lived in South Africa, they frequently supported orphanages and food programs in underserved communities, inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela, he said.
After immigrating to the U.S., “we wanted to continue to be of service.”
In his role at Kids 4 A Cause, Dominic spends time researching organizations that need support, developing and selling products such as organic soaps and essential oils to raise money, promoting his organization’s mission through speeches and news media coverage, and recruiting local businesses to help.
Some of the organization’s projects include: donating $1,000 to buy food and basic necessities for a children’s home; sponsoring eight children for a grief camp; helping to clean up around the Hillsborough River; supplying 145 supply bags for people experiencing homelessness; and donating $3,000 to provide necessary items and help cover expenses for patients undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
“The most memorable moment each month is when the check is presented to the organization we are supporting,” said Dominic.
“The happiness and gratitude on everyone’s faces gives me great joy.”