Samantha Kerker, a junior at Atlantic Community High School, has been recognized by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program to honor young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The Boca Raton resident was named Florida’s top high school youth volunteer in 2012 for her initiative to start Students For The Poor chapters in Palm Beach County high schools. For two years, Samantha has partnered with Food For The Poor to spread awareness about the severity of poverty and destitution in developing countries.
“I feel honored and humbled to have achieved this prestigious award and I am proud to represent the state of Florida in Washington D.C. in May,” said Samantha. “Even though I am only 5 feet 2 inches tall on a good day, and people tell me I am too small to actually have an impact on the world, I know that I can change the world by helping one student, one family, and one community at a time.”
Students For The Poor is a unique student outreach effort initiated by students and developed by Food For The Poor. The chapters are based on high school and college campuses throughout the United States, and students take time from their busy lives to serve the poor in their local communities, the Caribbean and Latin America.
“We have tried to raise our kids with an appreciation of what they have and to give back to the community whenever they can,” said Sindee Kerker, Samantha’s mother. “We have encouraged them to donate their time and energy and to make a difference in their community. Sami took this goal one step further and decided to make a difference both locally and internationally.”
At the age of 15, Samantha chose to forgo her desire to purchase a car at 16 to fulfill the dream of homeownership for a destitute family she had never met. Investing money she had earned since the sixth-grade in tie-dye materials and clothing, Samantha enlisted the support of friends and family nationwide. Samantha's initial goal was to raise money to build a safe, sturdy Food For The Poor house for a Nicaraguan family and to travel to see her dream realized in December 2010.
Emboldened by that trip, Samantha helped to start chapters of Students For The Poor at seven Palm Beach County high schools. This campaign started after she received a “Character Counts” award from the Palm Beach County School district. Soon afterward, Samantha met with Florida State Representative Bill Hager and former Palm Beach County superintendent of schools, Bill Malone, to discuss the formation of Students For The Poor chapters in Palm Beach County high schools.
In August 2011, Malone arranged for Samantha to present information about Students For The Poor to 28 county high school principals, which led to the creation of seven Students For The Poor chapters in one year. Students For The Poor is one of the largest clubs at Atlantic Community High School with more than 100 members.
“She has inspired many people to get involved,” said Angel Aloma, Food For The Poor’s Executive Director. “It goes to show you, you’re never too young or inexperienced to inspire others.”
Embarking on a new way to involve youth in philanthropy, six of the Students For The Poor chapters recently collaborated to host a benefit concert at Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton. Proceeds from the Feb. 11 event will go toward building a Food For The Poor school in Chinandega, Nicaragua.
To support the building initiative of these six Students For The Poor chapters, tax-deductible donations can be made through the charity’s secure website at www.FoodForThePoor.org/students.
Samantha also has qualified to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a prestigious national award that recognizes Americans of all ages who have dedicated their free time to serve both their country and their community.
From May 5 to May 8, Samantha and the other 101 state Prudential Honorees will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala award ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them – five middle level and five high school students – will be named National Honorees on May 7. These honorees will receive $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit, charitable organizations of their choice.
Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
Jennifer Leigh Oates
Food For The Poor
954-427-2222 x 6054