Breanna Burkhead, a senior at Garrard County High School, was named as one of Kentucky’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
Burkhead received $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for four days of national recognition events at which 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020.
Burkhead, who was nominated by Garrard County 4-H, played a leading role in purchasing and renovating an historic building in Lancaster to serve as a new permanent arts center. As a member of her 4-H group’s arts club, she knew that her town’s existing arts center was being evicted from its home and that its future was uncertain.
“I learned that the local art council was at a crossroads trying to figure out what they could do to keep art alive in our county,” she said. “I decided I wanted to be a part of this discussion and future decisions for arts in my community.”
She began investigating possible solutions and then presented her findings to the art council, urging the group to purchase a 3,000-square-foot vacant building in town. After the council voted to follow Burkhead’s recommendation, she was invited to serve on its board of directors. She then prepared a PowerPoint presentation to apply for grants, solicited donations from community members and participated in several fundraisers.
Once funding was secured and the building purchased, Burkhead spent many hours cleaning out and renovating the structure, and loading in arts supplies and equipment. She was given the honor of cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of the new center, which now features two classrooms, an art gallery, six working artist studios and a gift shop.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors one high school student and one middle school student from each state. Sean Nicholas, a 6th-grade student at Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, was Kentucky’s middle school honoree.
The program judges also recognized three students from Kentucky public schools as distinguished finalists for their impressive community service activities:
- Emily Morgan, a senior at Greenwood High School (Warren County), founded and runs “Every 98 Seconds,” a nonprofit organization that collects and donates art supplies for children in her community who have experienced trauma. She spreads awareness of the importance of art therapy and has raised nearly $3,000 and more than 200 art supplies. Morgan was motivated to start the organization by the proven benefits of art therapy for kids, and to help lift the stigma of discussing child abuse.
- Georgia Turpin, a senior at Mercer County Senior High School, runs “Mission: Shared Smile,” an organization that delivers handmade cards to children who are undergoing medical treatment. She has recruited students from local elementary and middle schools, church groups and her 4-H club to make more than 700 cards, and plans to expand her project to other states. Turpin was inspired to start this project after being evaluated for a tumor at the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital and discovering it was benign.
- Chloe Yates, a sophomore at North Oldham High School (Oldham County), has volunteered thousands of hours to establish a Special Olympics gymnastics team in her local community. She has completed extensive training, secured practice space, recruited and trained volunteers and regularly works with the program’s 26 participants. Yates also has spread awareness about her program and secured donations to cover her team’s registration and uniform costs.