Belleville eighth-grader wins state volunteer award

News-DemocratMarch 4, 2014 

Fourteen-year-old Mackenzie Scott of Belleville has been named one of two Illinois' top youth volunteers of 2014 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The other top youth volunteer in Illinois was Jasmine Babers, 18, of Rock Island. It is a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Mackenzie was nominated by Zion Lutheran School in Belleville. The eighth-grader helped created a nonprofit organization that has delivered thousands of toys to children in St. Louis hospitals over the past three years. When Mackenzie was younger, she had to spend a Christmas in the hospital because of a degenerative bone disease and noticed that many of the young patients there received no presents on Christmas day.

With support from her parents David and Renee Scott of Belleville and friends, Mackenzie began collecting toys. She delivered the toys she received to the St. Louis Children's Hospital in an antique firetruck supplied by a neighbor. The next year, Mackenzie's "Firetruck O' Toys" campaign distributed Christmas gifts to kids at two hospitals, and last year, young patients in four area hospitals had a brighter Christmas thanks to Mackenzie's efforts.

"I will never forget the look on a child's face when they are handed a gift," Mackenzie said. "To a hospitalized child, a gift isn't just a present -- it's a holiday; it's a lifeline; it's their hope."

As a state honoree, Mackenzie will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in May to Washington, D.C., where she will join the other honorees from each of the other states for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2014.

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Third through eighth-graders throughout the metro-east will be taking the Illinois Standard Achievement Test this month. The original testing window set by the state was March 3-14. However, the state gave school districts the option to adjust the window to March 10-21 as a result of the severe weather that caused cancellation of school. Some local districts like Belleville School District 118 and Harmony-Emge School District 175 has opted to keep the original testing window while other districts such as Signal Hill District 181 has opted for the new testing window.

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Registration at Discovery School in O'Fallon begins 9 a.m. Friday. Discovery is a nationally-accredited school with a four out of four-star rating. The school offers a variety of programs for young children. Discovery School is located at 810 Obernuefemann Road. For more information, contact the school at 632-3670.

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A town hall meeting on the Grant School District 110 property tax referendum will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Grant Middle School, located at 10110 Old Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights. The district is asking voters to approve an 85-cent tax rate hike, bringing the rate from $1.42 to $2.27 per $100 of assessed valuation. For the owner of a $100,000 house, Superintendent Matt Stines said the tax increase would cost about $8.25 a month. For more information on the referendum, check out the Facebook page by searching Grant District 110 -- Referendum.

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Wolf Branch Elementary School in Swansea will hold kindergarten registration for the 2014-15 school year from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 11; 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 12; and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 13. For more information, contact the school at 277-2100.

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A piece of artwork created collaboratively with artist-in-residence Kevin Trobaugh and art students and faculty at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville was dedicated last week. The project titled "Timeless Traditions" consists of a 14x14' hanging mobile comprised of nearly 20 individual pieces of aluminum each designed by the students. The piece was created as part of the 2013 Art on the Square's "High School Sculpture in the City Program," an interactive creative project sponsored by Mathis, Marifian & Richter that engages local high school students in a challenge to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The artwork was installed in Althoff's Heritage Hall.

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The following local students were honored with "Do The Right Thing" awards during a ceremony Feb. 25 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville: Ben Kirchoff from Amelia Carriel Jr. High School in O'Fallon District 90; Jhion Rivers from Amelia Carriel Jr. High School in O'Fallon District 90; Jacob Shields from Signal Hill Elementary in Signal Hill District 181; Dailyn VanWinkle from Union Elementary School in Belleville District 118; and Peytyn West from Whiteside Middle School in Whiteside District 115. Do The Right Thing is a program that recognizes St. Louis-area students for exhibiting positive character traits.

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Central Junior High students Ayah Hamdan and Carlos Mariles won the oratorical contest held Feb. 18 by the Optimist Club of Belleville. The winners will advance to the District Round of the Oratorical contest, which will be held in March.

The Optimist Oratorical Contest gives students the chance to speak to the world. Students under the age of 19 who have not yet graduated from high school are eligible to compete. To enter, interested students submit a speech on the pre-assigned topic to their local Optimist Club. This year's topic is "How My Passions Impact the World."

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Eighth-grader Sidney Wightman became the Principal for the Day recently at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Waterloo. Principal Lisa Buchheit was demoted to assistant principal while Sidney was in charge. As per principal's orders, students were first treated to a no uniform day. Sidney spent the day lounging about the school, making announcements and evaluating teachers. She also took a few friends to Applebee's for lunch with Buchheit footing the bill. After lunch, Sidney talked Buchheit into going to Walmart to purchase popsicles for the entire school. Principal for the Day was purchased at last year's Spring Gala by Sidney's parents, Steve and Donita Wightman. Earlier this year, third-grader Jordyn Brewer, daughter of Ryan and Cori Brewer of Waterloo, was principal for the day.

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The employees of GCS Credit Union recently presented the Illinois Center for Autism with a donation check for $1,030. Throughout the year, employees of GCS are given the opportunity to wear jeans on Fridays and Saturdays for $20 and the funds collected go to a specified charity. The Illinois Center for Autism is a not-for-profit, community-based, mental health treatment, and educational agency dedicated to serving people with autism.

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Kohl's Department Stores will award nearly $400,000 in scholarships and prizes this year to more than 2,300 young volunteers who have made a positive impact in their communities. Nominations for kids ages 6 to 18 will be accepted through March 14 at http://www.kohlskids.com. Parents, teachers, neighbors and friends can nominate outstanding youth.

Two nominees from each of the more than 1,100 Kohl's stores nationwide will win a $50 Kohl's gift card, and nearly 200 will win regional scholarships worth $1,000 toward higher education. Ten national winners will be awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships for higher education, and Kohl's will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each national winner's behalf.

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