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Severna Park Middle School Student named Top Youth Volunteer of 2021

| February 15, 2021, 01:04 PM

Derek Yan, 16, of Potomac and Lily McCallister, 13, of Severna Park  were named Maryland’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.

As State Honorees, Derek and Lily will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.

“We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they’re making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.”

Liquified Creative Annapolis

Lily, an eighth-grader at Severna Park Middle School, undertook a project to increase the oyster population in Chesapeake Bay to improve the quality of its increasingly polluted water, and developed an award-winning science fair experiment that demonstrated the precise way in which oysters can accomplish that objective. As the daughter of a science teacher and a member of her school’s environmental club, Lily was well aware that Chesapeake Bay is plagued with microplastics, waste and fertilizer runoff, and other pollutants. She also knew that one mature oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. “The bay is an important part of our ecosystem,” she said, “and oysters are natural filters in our bay.”

So Lily decided to embark on an oyster restoration project. Working with the Magothy River Association, she picked a marina at the mouth of the Magothy River to grow baby oysters. Then she obtained oyster larvae from Oyster Recovery Partners, placed them in cages, and tied them to piers. For the next several months, she had to pull 25 cages out of the water each week and shake off accumulated mud, often with the help of her Girl Scout troop. At the end of the growing season, she released her oysters on a protected reef in the bay. In addition, Lily conducted a science fair project that showed how oysters improve the turbidity, acidity, temperature and dissolved oxygen levels of the bay. “My hope is to make the bay healthier for humans, plants and animals,” she said.

State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President’s Volunteer Service Awards.

“It speaks volumes about the character of today’s secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need,” said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. “While we’re especially proud to celebrate this year’s 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who’s found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give.”

To read the names and stories of all of this year’s State Honorees, visit


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