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Alumni Receive Community Service Awards

Four graduates of The Independence School recently received the 2020 Governor's Youth Volunteer Service Awards. Governor John Carney presented the awards to 29 individuals and 9 groups in recognition of their service to Delaware. These awards highlight the difference that young volunteers make in their communities.

Honorees were celebrated during a virtual ceremony to air during the 2020 Delaware Volunteerism Conference on August 13, 2020. The Governor’s Office sponsors the Youth Volunteer Service Awards, which are coordinated by the State Office of Volunteerism and the Governor’s Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.  

We congratulate these Independence alumni, and are proud to share their stories from the website with you:

Katelyn Craft '16, Tower Hill School '20, Vanderbilt University
Katelyn Craft is a long-time volunteer at Exceptional Care for Children in Newark. Each child is involved in the everyday activities of playing, learning, and growing while receiving expert medical care. Katelyn works in the playroom and living room. She loves coloring and reading to the children. You will often find her cuddling them. She loves all the children at the facility. Many of them do not have regular visits from family, it is important to her that each of them knows they are loved. Katelyn is a positive companion for the children receiving care at Exceptional Care for Children. Many young children have feelings about the changes an illness has on his/her body. Katy encourages them and provides them opportunities to communicate these feelings and express their concerns and fears. Music, drawing, or writing can often help kids express their emotions and escape through a fantasy world of their own design. Regardless of their age, illness or disability, Katy always lets them know that there are people who love them and will be there for them. Katy is always available to talk, play, or hold a child’s hand. She knows that just being next to them will provide the greatest comfort. Through the pain and discomfort these children experience, whenever they see Katy they smile and always find the strength to hug her.

Krish Malhotra '17, Tower Hill School '21
For nearly 10 years, Krish Malhotra has served as an outstanding and influential member of Global Youth H.E.L.P. (“GYH”), a non-profit organization that trains young people to become leaders in their communities through service. He has demonstrated exemplary leadership skills while conducting an annual coat drive, organizing a holiday hygiene donation program for homeless veterans, and holiday care packages as well as backpack donations for disadvantaged children. Krish’s passion for serving homeless veterans stemmed from his experience with both of his grandfathers serving in the military. When Krish learned about the sad reality experienced by many homeless veterans who pass away each year due to hypothermia and frostbite from living in harsh conditions without adequate protection, he launched his annual coat and hygiene care packages drive. Krish was deeply saddened to learn that homeless veterans who had served our nation were facing harsh winters and lacked basic hygiene supplies to maintain a basic sanitary lifestyle. Thus, by donating gently used jackets, new socks and hygiene care packages. Krish has enthusiastically channeled his passion into action for service projects to benefit the veterans in need and disadvantaged children in our community.

Neel Sortur '16, Charter School of Wilmington '20, Northeastern University
Wheelchair bound patients at the Wilmington Veterans Affair Assisted Living Facility can enjoy gardens and plant flowers that are meaningful to them, due to the therapeutic garden t ables Neel Sortur constructed. There is a high incidence of post- traumatic stress disorder, depression and other physical and emotional impairments in veterans, which can be relieved by interacting with sensory gardens such as this. Neel made scale drawings and models of the tables beforehand to ensure the tables would be fitted for the wheelchair’s height and width. In order to fund the project, Neel hosted car wash fundraisers. Additionally, he mentored under experiences woodworkers and carpenters. The project not only benefited veterans with gardening, but also, with creative art using ceramics and sand play for additional tactile stimulation. Neel also volunteers at the My Health Veteran office instructing veterans how to use the healthcare software and visiting bed bound patients to familiarize them with bedside computer functionalities.

Lily Suh '16, Tower Hill School '20, University of Pennsylvania

As a volunteer at the Summit Retirement Community for the past three years, Lily Suh has brought music to the lives of residents. What started as an opportunity for Lily and her younger sister to share their love of the harp with residents, expanded into the co-founding of a Music Outreach Club at Lily’s high school. Now a large group of students performs regularly at Summit, and share their talents. Instrumental performances include the piano, clarinet, violin, guitar, and harp with vocalists performing as well. All of this, according to nominator Scott Thomas, “gives our residents the opportunity to not only enjoy live music but continue to interact with young people within our community. These exchanges are invaluable in promoting our residents’ mental and emotional wellbeing.” Lily has also convinced her harp teacher to now begin holding recitals at the Summit Retirement Community, expanding access to live performances even further. It is through her leadership that students in her school have learned the importance of sharing your time and talents with the community around you.