May 03, 2018

Manchin, Capito Congratulate West Virginia's Top Youth Volunteers

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) congratulated Kayla McKinney and Lakyn Campbell for receiving the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Award alongside 102 other extraordinary young Americans across the nation.

“West Virginian’s are dedicated to neighbors helping neighbors,” said Senator Manchin. “Kayla and Lakyn represent the best of West Virginia and the nation. They have set extraordinary examples for all West Virginians and their community service should inspire us to make a difference in our own communities. I look forward to seeing the incredible work that both of these West Virginians will do in the future and I congratulate them for this great accomplishment.”

“One of the characteristics I am always most proud of in West Virginians is the drive to help others in need, and that is exactly what Kayla and Lakyn are doing. Their volunteerism and contributions to West Virginia communities go above and beyond,” Senator Capito said. “I congratulate them on this much-deserved honor and look forward to seeing what else they will accomplish in the future.”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), are designed to emphasize the importance our nation places on service to others, and to encourage all young Americans to contribute to their communities.

State Honorees in the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program received a $1,000 prize at a formal awards ceremony yesterday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and were congratulated personally by Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn.

From the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards press release:

Kayla, a senior at McKinney Homeschool, has performed her own songs and shared her struggle with bullying at schools, after-school programs and community centers in numerous cities over the past three years, imparting messages of kindness, hope and empowerment to more than 25,000 young people. “In middle school, I was bullied, made fun of, and couldn’t understand why others didn’t like me,” said Kayla. “I started experiencing severe depression and anxiety.” But after a classmate took his own life because of bullying, Kayla wrote a song in his honor and discovered that music could help her heal from her own painful experiences and inspire others as well.

She was asked to perform her song at a convention for the state judicial system, and then began singing and playing guitar in front of young audiences. Soon after, Kayla and her mother founded “The One Voice Project,” which organizes anti-bullying concert tours featuring numerous young musicians. In addition to playing songs for their audiences, Kayla and her fellow performers share stories of their own personal struggles and how they overcame them. After their shows, they provide take-home “empowerment packages” to reinforce their messages. Kayla also has made videos and public service announcements to reach kids around the world, and wrote a song with her band that’s been heard by thousands at NASCAR events.

Lakyn, a seventh-grader at Jackson Middle School, has conducted an annual collection drive at her school over the past two years to provide paper products and personal care items for a Good Samaritan Center, following several years of other volunteer activities. Lakyn started volunteering at age 4, helping to raise money on a Relay for Life team after she lost her brother to cancer. Later, “I realized there are many organizations that need volunteers and community help,” she said. So she held a couple of book drives for a children’s welfare charity and a children’s hospital.

In late 2015, Lakyn shot a deer while hunting with her father and donated 52 pounds of venison to a Good Samaritan Center food pantry. While she was delivering the meat, Lakyn got a tour of the center and discovered it had a great need for paper products and personal care items. So she asked her school administration if she could get teachers and students involved in a collection drive. She made posters to hang in the hallways and her principal promoted the effort in school-wide announcements. Over two weeks, teachers and classmates brought in donations of paper towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, detergent, diapers, baby supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cleaning supplies and other items. Lakyn and her mother loaded them into their car and took them to the Good Samaritan Center. A second drive was held the following year. “Helping others is the most rewarding feeling I’ve had,” said Lakyn.