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State Honoree

Kristi Benson

Montana

Kristi Benson, 18, of Dillon, Mont., a senior at Beaverhead County High School, created a non-profit organization that has raised more than $27,000 to provide essential educational materials to public schools and students in her rural county that cannot afford to buy them. Kristi said she has always been aware of students coming to school without the tools they need to learn. “I had an idea of a way to help bridge the gap between those who have tools and those who have none,” she said, and decided to follow the teachings of Gandhi to become “the change you wish to see.” Kristi created the “Beaverhead County Angel Fund” and began appealing for donations of money and supplies through news articles, promotional speeches and newsletters. She also raised money with activities such as a Halloween booth at a community party and “Denim Fridays” at schools, and attracted additional funds from United Way and her high school’s honor society. The proceeds were used to supply every school with “Angel Fund Tubs” filled with calculators, backpacks, notebooks, crayons and other items. In addition, a radio appeal by Kristi for gently used computers and printers helped six schools develop technology programs and connect to the Internet. She has since expanded her influence beyond her county, and is now advising teens in eastern Washington and northern Montana on starting their own Angel Funds.