Atherton teen honored nationally for volunteer work

Jessica Bird, a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Atherton, is one of 10 young volunteers across the nation honored with a 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her work combating sex-trafficking worldwide.

The award was announced May 5, and the 10 recipients were celebrated at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

An 18-year-old Atherton resident, Ms. Bird learned in February that she was a finalist for the award when she was chosen as the top high school-age volunteer in California for 2014.

Ms. Bird was featured in an April article in the Almanac, in which she said that her current volunteer work began on a church mission trip to Costa Rica in 2012, when she volunteered at a safe house for sex-trafficking victims. After that experience, she set out to learn more about global sex-trafficking networks, and worked to educate her school community and others about the problem.

In March 2013, Ms. Bird was one of 125 youth delegates from around the world at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women's session, where she spoke on the sex-trafficking issue.

According to a press release from the sponsoring group, Prudential Financial, when Ms. Bird's church canceled its annual service trip to the Costa Rica safe house in 2013, "Jessica recruited five friends and three adults to make the trip on their own. While there, her team built a chicken coop, refurbished a greenhouse, and created a job training program so that the six girls at the safe house would not have to fall back into prostitution.

"The girls also were taught how to cook healthy meals, sell produce at a farmers' market, manage money, and exercise leadership and responsibility skills."

The 10 winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award are given an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their school, a personal award of $5,000, and a $5,000 grant from the Prudential Foundation to turn over to a nonprofit charitable organization of the winner's choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.


Like this comment
Posted by R. Todd Johnson
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Congratulations to Jessica for her leadership in an area where the subject matter is often so dark and difficult, people (like me) would rather ignore it. Congratulations to Jessica for leading others to DO SOMETHING to help support those who are making a difference on the ground.

And congratulations to the Almanac and Renee for the willingness to cover this issue.

And to everyone else out there who is looking to DO SOMETHING about the 27,000,000 people enslaved in the world, might I suggest that you join with 250 local residents and 11 amazing artists (including Lisa Kristine, Nolan Lee, and Koji Tanaka) to raise awareness and help combat trafficking and slavery at the heART for Justice benefit art show taking place in Atherton on this Saturday, May 17, from 1-4 pm.

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