Board of education recognizes student for volunteerism

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019

This story was co-authored by Adam Droscha. 

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union High School student Emily Potter has many passions — singing, acting in school plays and her education. Chief among them, however, is her passion for volunteerism and giving back to her community.

“Honestly, it makes you feel like a better person when you [volunteer],” she said. “It also, in a way, unites us as a community. No matter how small or how big that project is, you’re stepping in the right direction. Volunteering might not change the world, but it could change one person’s day or life.”

Because of her love volunteering, Potter was recognized by both a national award program and the Dowagiac Union School district Monday evening.

During its regular board meeting, the board of education recognized Potter for being named a top youth volunteer for the state of Michigan by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a nationwide program by Prudential Financial that honors young people for acts of volunteerism and represents the country’s largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service, according to Prudential. Through the award, Potter received a $1,000 scholarship, which she will use toward furthering her education at Central Michigan University in the fall. She also received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where she will join the top honorees from each state and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2019.

“This is an award that recognizes the things [Potter] has done within the community here,” said Brent McNitt, a representative with Prudential Financial, as he presented Potter with a silver medallion during Monday’s meeting. “[Potter] has done so much for the community here. … This is a big accomplishment.”

Last year alone, Potter logged more than 1,000 community service hours, according to her mother, Melissa Craig. The most significant volunteer effort Potter is involved in is through the youth council for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Since joining the council in 2016, she has had the opportunity to play a leading role in addressing several tribal issues. Examples include coordinating a project to provide every newborn in the tribe with a new handmade blanket, giving up Saturdays to clean a highway the tribe adopted and promoting sustainable farmland management and healthy eating choices among tribal members. She also has volunteered as a camp counselor at the Van Buren Youth summer camp and through various school projects.

Potter said she is inspired to volunteer both because it is a way to give back to communities and organizations that have personally impacted her life.

“I love the [Pokagon Band], and I love the camp. They’ve given so much to me, and I just want to give back,” Potter said.

During her trip to Washington D.C. in May, Potter will be in the running for another national Prudential scholarship for $5,000, and an additional $5,000 toward a charity of her choosing. If selected for the national awards, she said she plans to split the extra $5,000 in charity funds to some of her local volunteer endeavors.

Also Monday:

• The board approved the retirement of Kelly Knapp, a third-grade teacher at Patrick Hamilton Elementary.

• The board approved recommendations of hire for Tammi Spivey and Mark Howkins for the positions of varsity girls’ tennis coach and junior varsity boys’ baseball coach, respectively.