2016 NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Awards Winners

NCEA is pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural 2016 NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Awards. A formal press announcement will be made during Catholic Schools Week 2017.

  The Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Awards program is made possible, in part, through the generosity and support of Cross Catholic Outreach, a Catholic ministry serving the poorest of the poor internationally through dioceses, parishes and Catholic missionaries.  For more information about Cross Catholic Outreach please go to www.crosscatholic.org.

NCEA received an outstanding response to the inaugural Call for Nominations from across the country. Each student nominated was truly amazing. These top ten student awardees embody the virtue, valor and vision exemplified by the many students in our Catholic elementary and secondary schools who are changing the world.

Many thanks to the selection committee for their excellent work in vetting each student nomination.

The awardees listed alphabetically are:

Heath and Harry Bennett
Grades: 2 and 6
Ages: 7 and 11
St. Joseph School, Medford, MA
Archdiocese of Boston

Project:
Heath and Harry were inspired to create Bennett Brothers Balm when their friend Timmy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May 2016. They wanted to raise money for cancer research and to create a product that would help his skin feel better after the chemo treatments. The entire idea and promotion of the balm lotion was Heath and Harry’s. Their mom and dad helped with the stirring of the ingredients and supervising the pouring of hot liquids. The lip and body balm is a popular local and online seller and 100% of the proceeds go to cancer research.


James Bledsoe
Grade: 12
Age: 17
Saint Joseph High School, Metuchen, NJ
Diocese of Metuchen

Project:
James is interested in using technology tools, especially 3-D printing to help others. He has recently used his own 3-D printer to create prosthetic hands for children and has researched the need for this tool. James has modified code to create the hand and has contacted one of the children’s hospitals hoping to provide his creation to help others. At this time, the hospital spokesperson has expressed an interest in using the prototype to gain more interest in this cause. James is also finding ways to help those in need whenever he can. For the last four years, he has facilitated bike drives with his school robotics team to provide bikes for lower income families in the Metuchen area. James continues to find ways to help others through technology tools.


Avery Brown
Grade: 6
Age: 11
Bishop Flaget School, Chillicothe, OH
Diocese of Columbus

Project:
Avery started a program to raise money for Southern Ohio Survivors (SOS). This organization helps people and their families in the local community suffering from traumatic illnesses. SOS provides gas cards, food, special equipment and many other items for distribution to those in need. Avery is the creator of the Pink Power Pumpkin Project, where she and her friends paint, glitter and sell the pumpkins in the community. All her supplies are donated and 100% of the money raised goes to SOS. Avery began this program in the summer before going into third grade.


Nina Coleman
Grade: 12
Age: 17
St. Vincent’s Academy, Savannah, GA
Diocese of Savannah

Project:
Nina founded a special needs cheerleading squad. She organized and ran a special needs cheer summer camp, and within a month of its inception, the Super Sharks cheer team was born. Nina says that these beautiful and differently-abled cheerleaders always inspire a standing ovation when they perform. Nina has been recognized by the American Red Cross as a teen hero. This amazing team made up of girls with Down syndrome, blindness, deafness and autism are, Nina says, the real heroes.


Kelsey Fleming
Grade: 12
Age: 17
Marist School, Atlanta, GA
Archdiocese of Atlanta

Project:
Kelsey Fleming started Bumble’s Bibs in honor of her grandmother, Bumble, who was devoted to improving lives. A veteran of missionary work with severely disabled children and adults, Kelsey was inspired to provide them with large bibs that would facilitate their feeding and protect their dignity; thus, Bumble’s Bibs was born. In the last two years, Kelsey and her friends have sewn large bibs and to date they have sent approximately 700 bibs to Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Bumble’s Bibs has also inspired the creation of a new “bib ministry” within Mustard Seed Communities. Kelsey and her volunteers are excited to help procure the sewing materials and fabric for bibs sewn by residents in the Mustard Seed Communities program.


Sarah Maisano
Grade: 12
Age: 17
Regina High School, Warren, MI
Archdiocese of Detroit

Project:
Sarah used her personal savings to create a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based on the success of her holiday fundraising parties that she had hosted since 2011. In 2014, S.K.I.P. (Supporting Kids in Pain) became a reality. To date, the organization has distributed over 3,500 hand-sewn tote bags filled with coloring books, crayons, puzzles and other toys to hospitalized children. Recently, this amazing young woman has hosted S.K.I.P. 5K Walk/Run events that have raised thousands of dollars. Sarah continues to host the annual holiday fundraiser, but her goals are even bigger. S.K.I.P.’s mission is to donate care bags to kids in all 50 states, and has already done so in six states.


Emma Murphy
Grade: 11
Age: 17
Althoff Catholic High School, Belleville, IL
Diocese of Belleville

Project:
A graduate of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership World Leadership Congress, Emma is working to create an algae-based filter that has the ability to feed off the natural toxins that are found in wastewater. This is an inexpensive method of purification that can produce up to ten gallons of water per day. Emma is now working on a portable water filtration platform using algae as the main source. Her goal is to pour contaminated water through the filtration system and end up with clean drinking water. As a result of her research, Emma has been contacted by a university professor wishing to partner with her. She says she can change the world, ten gallons at a time.


Ella Grace Robertson
Grade: 8
Age: 12
Saint Ann School, Nashville, TN
Diocese of Nashville

Project:
Ella Grace initiated the Bakers for Bikes fundraising club at her school, a service project that raises money to purchase specially modified bikes for children with special needs. While in the fourth grade, Ella Grace developed a plan for the fundraising club that she then presented to the principal. She has remained the driving force ever since. In its fourth year, the entire school turns out for semiannual baking marathons and has sold thousands of muffins. The program continues to thrive and present specially modified bikes to happy, happy riders who can now, with Ella’s help, enjoy the fun of bike riding.


Neha Venkatesh
Grade: 12
Age: 17
Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA
Diocese of Oakland

Project:
Four years ago, Neha founded Scholarships Without Borders, a non-profit foundation that has donated school supplies, sports equipment, uniforms, books, backpacks and shoes to help hundreds of children around the world. Neha calls her benefactors Academic Angels because not only do they care for the well-being of the children they serve, their donations supplement recognition of the children’s academic achievements. As a foundation, Neha believes that it is everyone’s duty to help nurture the next generation. Her goal is to show the children of the world that we truly and deeply care.


Caleb White
Grade: 9
Age: 14
Detroit Catholic Central High School, Novi, MI
Archdiocese of Detroit

Project:
Caleb started The Caleb White Project, a non-profit foundation at the age of six. He has touched the lives of individuals and families struggling with homelessness in Detroit ever since. He currently has six projects underway including The Homeless Project, where he personally has handed out over 700 care packages; Game Night at the Shelter, an annual favorite; and the Global Youth Service Day, one day in which volunteers built ten libraries in ten homeless shelters. He also initiated a backpacking program that helps to provide school supplies to children in need. Caleb’s foundation has over 3,000 volunteers.