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State Honoree

Kael Hesford

Boulder, Montana

Kael Hesford, 13, of Boulder, Montana, an eighth-grader at Boulder Elementary School, led a service learning club that conducted several community service projects over the past three years, including winter clothing drives, a student weekend food program and fundraising for playground equipment at his school. Kael managed these activities as one of seven student voices ambassadors in the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. “The projects I worked on were very important to me because our town has high poverty rates,” said Kael. “This results in families that may not be able to afford a good meal and good clothing for the winter, so I wanted to help support families.”

Kael’s club decided to run a winter clothing drive after seeing fellow students coming to school in just sweaters and running shoes despite sub-freezing temperatures. To obtain donations, they hung posters around town, placed collection boxes at small businesses and asked large stores to contribute needed items. Last year, they were able to distribute more than 80 articles of winter clothing to students in need at a school-wide family night. The club also conducted community drives to provide more than 40 students with “KidsPacks” full of food to take home every weekend. In addition, Kael and his fellow volunteers raised more than $5,800 to buy a “spinning orbitron” for their school’s playground. Kael created a display on the impact of his projects and presented it at national symposium in Washington, D.C., last summer.