2017 Youth Power and Hope Award Winners

Meet some remarkable youngsters who give back to their communities

Posted on Nov 29 2017 in Features

2017 Youth Power and Hope Award winner Sarah Kouns donates stuffed animals to the Indianapolis Fire Department for children involved in fires.


Community service can mean many things — for instance, collecting various items for those in need, raising money for charities and causes, bringing joy to people hungry for personal interaction, and donating “sweat equity” to build homes for the less fortunate. This type of community service has no age requirements as this year’s Youth Power and Hope Award recipients can attest to.

Five winners, all middle school students, are being honored at the Indiana Electric Cooperatives Annual Meeting on Dec. 5 for their philanthropic efforts. Through a partnership with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, they also attended the Power of Children Symposium at the museum on Nov. 11 to learn how they can continue and even expand their efforts in the future.

The Youth Power and Hope Awards program began in 2009. Since then, 45 young people have been recognized for helping to make the world a better place.

Here are this year’s honorees:

Emma Gillard, Knox

Though she’s only in sixth grade, Knox Community Middle School student Emma Gillard understands that her community service projects directly impact others. “Helping people is one of the most important things in life,” she said. That’s why she’s so involved in a number of projects in her northern Indiana community. For the past two years, she has participated in Relay for Life and spearheaded a campaign to collect pop tabs for the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis’ fundraising efforts.

She spent last Christmas visiting residents of local nursing homes and hospitals, singing songs to them and giving them homemade cards and stuffed animals. “Most of them had no family nearby,” Gillard said. “I sat with them, talked with them and understood them.”

This past year, Gillard and her family cleaned up their community park in San Pierre simply because the local folks love and enjoy the park.

Jozelyn Holmes, Berne

In her award recommendation letter for Jozelyn Holmes, Swiss Village retirement community Director of Development and Volunteers Jen Leyman describes her as “a person with an amazing heart and a gift for service and care.”

Holmes, a South Adams Middle School eighth grader, faithfully visits Swiss Village every Saturday and Thursdays, too, during her school breaks. While there, she makes it a point to interact with and bring cheer to all the residents — and as a result she’s come to think of them as her surrogate grandparents, and they’ve accepted her as their grandchild. “I hope I give them as much joy as they bring me,” Holmes wrote in her award application.

No need to worry, Leyman points out. “Every time she is here, she is making a difference, and I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments.”

In recognition of her dedication to the elderly, Holmes won the Leading Age Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award.

Sarah Kouns, Zionsville

Sarah Kouns caught the community service “bug” in preschool when she helped her mom set up for her Mom’s Day In programs.

Nowadays, the Zionsville Middle School sixth grader keeps busy with a wide array of projects. As her 4-H club’s community service leader since 2015, she’s collected over 100 stuffed animals to give to kids impacted by fires; made Valentine cards for Wheeler Mission Ministries and nursing home residents; and collected over 100 hats, scarves and gloves for Wheeler Mission. She’s also collected socks for Boone County’s Love Inc. and collected pet supplies for the Boone County Humane Society. She’s spearheaded all these efforts and delivered these donations as well.

Kouns is motivated to help out because she cares about her community. “I’m giving something back to my community. … I’m doing something about it.”

Adeline Myers, Lebanon

“No matter how old you are or what resources you have, you can make your community a better place,” Adeline Myers wrote in her Youth Power and Hope Award application. The home-schooled eighth grader from Lebanon has done just that through her various volunteer projects.

Her favorite project is L.A.M.B. (Learning and Making Buddies) Day, something her 4-H sheep club has conducted for five years. Through the project, she teaches service learning students from the local high school how to raise lambs for show in a fun day filled with hands-on activities, photos, and a pizza party. Myers also regularly babysits for the local chapter of Mothers of Preschoolers, volunteers for the Love in the Name of Christ of Boone County, and has packed lunches for the Shalom House of Boone County’s Sack Lunch Program.

Kayelee Ogden, Greensburg

For North Decatur Elementary School sixth grader Kayelee Ogden, community service transcends her hometown of Greensburg. She and her family have volunteered on two life-changing mission trips to build houses for those in need. During the trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, Ogden said, “I learned to be kind, communicate in different ways, be thankful for what you have, have fun and spend your time wisely! Be nice! People will notice.”

Ogden is active in improving her community by recycling, donating to food drives, helping out in nursing homes and donating Thanksgiving meals to the elderly. “I love some of their reactions when we show up at their door and hand them a whole meal,” she said.

“These incredible experiences allow me to make a difference in the lives of others,” Ogden said.

How do I apply for the Youth Power and Hope Awards?

Information for the 2018 Youth Power and Hope Awards will be available in the spring of 2018. You can learn more at http://www.indianaconnection.org/for-youth/youth-power-and-hope/