© Chicago Zoological Society
Forest Park, IL...Ava Raddatz likes to help people.
On February 25, the Proviso Math and Science Academy junior found out that she was being honored for her service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award. The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have devoted significant amounts of their time to serving others, was presented by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program and included a letter signed by President Barack Obama.
Ava, 16, said that when Ms. Kim Echols, principal at PMSA, told her about the award, she thought that she was referring to the Cook County Sheriff’s Youth Service Medal that she won in November 2011.
"I was shocked," Ava said.
She has been active in the community since junior high school, volunteering at Brookfield Zoo as a guide, at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital in the maternity ward, and at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital as a hospital guide.
"I love helping people," Ava said. "I love talking to people. Just helping people makes their day. I like making people smile."
Ms. Echols said that Ava is a model student who has people supporting her.
"She is an academically strong student, well-rounded, is a volunteer, and is involved in internal and external activities," Ms. Echols said. "She has a laser-like focus on being the best person that she can be. Ava’s mother is extremely supportive of her, and she is a good example of how successful students can be when they have parents who support them."
Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of District 209, said that more students such as Ava are needed to help the community.
"Students such as Ava are great for the community because they show that they care about it," Dr. Collins-Hart said. "To make the community a better place, we need more people, including students, to be willing to be available to volunteer and be of service to it."
Ava said that she plans to continue volunteering at Brookfield Zoo while teaching swimming lessons to children. After she graduates from high school in 2014, she said that she wants to go into a pre-medical program with the plans of being a pediatric surgeon.
"I like kids," she said.