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State Honoree

Jake Martin

Alabama

Jake Martin, 13, of Birmingham, Ala., a seventh-grader at Highlands School, has volunteered for the past three summers at Mitchell's Place, a summer school for children with special needs. "I have two brothers who are autistic, and one of them goes to summer school at Mitchell's Place," said Jake. "After seeing how disadvantaged my brothers are, I began to think: How could I help?" Then he heard that teachers at the school were looking for volunteers. "I figured that if they needed help, I would give it to them," Jake said. Initially, the teachers gave Jake simple assignments such as handing out snacks. But Jake wanted to do more, and soon was spending eight hours each day helping the children paint, draw, read, participate in sports and playground activities, play musical instruments, and do math. Jake even recruited some of his friends to volunteer. "What I got out of my work was a greater ability to help special-needs children excel. I learned that no matter how hard something is, you can do it - no matter what," said Jake, who is looking forward to volunteering at Mitchell's Place again next summer.