Home » News » Olles named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2019

Olles named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Caragan Olles, 16, De Pere, Notre Dame Academy, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 24th annual national award ceremony at Union Station’s East Hall.

Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Olles has earned the title of National Honoree, along with 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.

Also honored in Washington, D.C., was Eloise Massee, 13, Bay View Middle School.

Both were named Wisconsin’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized May 5 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia.

At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2019 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis.

The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for the recognition events.

Olles co-founded a nonprofit organization in 2013 that has raised more than $160,000 to provide special tutoring for students with dyslexia, create dyslexia resource centers in three public library systems, and educate teachers and parents about this learning disability.

In elementary school, “I came home many days crying because I felt I wasn’t as smart as my classmates,” she said.

When she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, she and her family were shocked by the lack of information about the disorder, and how uninformed her teachers were.

Luckily, she was able to receive phonics-based tutoring for several years that enabled her to succeed in school.

But Olles worried about all the kids whose families couldn’t afford that expense. So she and her older brother started Bright Young Dyslexics to help students with dyslexia get the help they need.

Olles began to raise money by selling handmade bracelets, chocolates, baked goods and passes to a “dress down day” at school, as well as by hosting fundraising dinners at local restaurants.

She also developed a website with information about dyslexia, and formed a youth advisory board of middle and high school volunteers – now totaling 36 – who help her fundraise and plan events.

In addition to paying for tutoring and library resources, Olles’ nonprofit conducts in-school programs to educate teachers about learning disabilities, and simulation events to show what it feels like to have dyslexia.

Bright Young Dyslexics expanded its reach from Northeast Wisconsin to the entire state several years ago, and is now offering a dyslexia awareness kit to students across the country who want to educate their own communities about dyslexia.

Massee is co-chair of a committee at her school that raises funds and awareness to promote life-saving organ donations, and conducts other community service projects, as well.

Over the past several years, she has been a volunteer at a public library’s summer reading program, a science and engineering camp, and holiday dance clinics for students with special needs.

So when Massee arrived at her current school, she wanted to get involved in a meaningful service activity.

“Throughout my entire school life, I have always had a desire to become a leader and help others,” she said.

She decided to join her school’s Northeast Wisconsin Donate Life and Community Service Committee and work on its biggest event, an annual walk to raise money for Donate Life Wisconsin.

As a committee member, she helped recruit volunteers, coordinate with a national organ donation organization, advertise the event, register new organ donors and assist with the logistics.

“Right now there are about 114,000 people throughout the United States awaiting an organ transplant,” Massee said. “The annual walk helps ensure these wonderful people are given the gift of life.”

In addition to the walk, Massee’s committee has hosted a Heavenly Hats Parade to buy hats for cancer patients, and launched an annual toy and book drive.

“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

“These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they’ve also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change,” said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. “We commend each of these young volunteers for all they’ve contributed to their communities.”

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top