Two Area Youth Honored

By: Jillian Risberg Email
By: Jillian Risberg Email
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They're honored for outstanding acts of volunteerism and community service by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Two remarkable teens are from right here in Wood County.

"They’re just people that may need a little more help than people who don't have a disability,” says Olivia Smith, a Blennerhassett Middle School eighth-grader.

Smith is named one of West Virginia’s top youth volunteers of 2014 for her dedication to people with disabilities.

Her sister has Down syndrome and her mom is director of Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

"You should just treat 'em, like, the same,” Smith says. “And so I want to try to get people to realize that and be better educated."

Peter Welcker, a senior at Parkersburg South is also recognized as a distinguished finalist for his scientific research to find a way to remove the chemical BPA from food and water.

He was inspired to action after his nephew was born with health complications linked to potential BPA exposure.

"I was watching the news one day and I realized these sippy cups actually could potentially have a chemical that is harming them,” he says. “I was just outraged, and I realized -- could this be harming a larger base of children."

Bisphenol poses a possible danger, according to Welcker, who has a patent pending for his work.

"I found that manganese dioxide was an incredibly effective manner of removal and it was also cheap and could be easily utilized on a worldwide scale,” he says.

Both students are thrilled to receive such an honor.

"Me out of so many kids,” Smith says. “I'm just excited that they would recognize me.”

“It basically shows that you have done something monumental to help your community, both local and national… and I am personally overwhelmed at the fact that I’ve actually been accepted,” Welcker says.

As a state honoree, Smith receives an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. in May, where she will join the top two honorees from every state for four days of national recognition events.
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The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors her as an outstanding youth volunteer of 2014, for her dedication to young people and adults with disabilities.

Olivia Smith, an eighth-grader at Blennerhassett Middle School, helps them participate in social and recreational activities, serving as a mentor and teacher.

The 14-year-old's mother is director of Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley and her sister has Down syndrome, inspiring Olivia to do all she can to help others.

"They're just people that may need a little more help than people who don't have a disability... but you should just treat them, like, the same," she says. "And so I want to try to get people to realize that and be better educated."

Peter Welcker, a senior at Parkersburg South, is also recognized as a distinguished finalist for his scientific research to find a way to remove the chemical BPA from food and water.

He was inspired to action after his nephew was born with health complications linked to possible BPA exposure.


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