Naperville teen snags top volunteer award
The spirit of a high school pep assembly on a sunny Friday afternoon surrounded Jungin Angie Lee of Naperville as she was honored for her spirit as a volunteer.
Angie, a junior at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, was chosen as the top high school volunteer in Illinois in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. She won a $1,000 award, a trip next month to Washington, D.C., and a chance to be named one of the top five high school volunteers in the country.
She got a long round of applause April 15 as she wheeled out from in front of a rowdy section of bleachers to meet the only man in a suit in the whole packed gym.
Robert Jungels of Prudential Financial's Downers Grove office announced to Angie's peers what many of them already know: her volunteer work founding a nonprofit group and raising nearly $200,000 in nine years to fight a rare spinal disease is exemplary.
Jungels said Angie stood out for the creativity and compassion she puts into Angie's Hope, which she and her friend, Kyra Scadden, created to help cure spinal muscular atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disease doctors discovered Angie has when she was a baby.
The disease weakens the nerves in the spinal cord and decreases muscle strength throughout the body, but Angie says she's one of the stronger patients. She works hard to keep it that way.
"She's accomplished quite a bit at such a young age," Jungels said.
Angie smiled and soaked in the praise from her peers, which turned into a standing ovation as she accepted a silver medallion from Jungels to symbolize the award.
Angie got word of the honor in February and knew it would be delivered in person.
"I didn't know it was going to happen today, so I was really shocked," she said after the pep assembly gave way to the weekend.
Now, medallion in hand, she's preparing a presentation about Angie's Hope to give when she travels to a convention with the other high school and junior high Spirit of Community award winners from across the country.
She'll tell of the success she's found with fundraisers like a Big Ball Soccer Tournament that raised $31,000 when it started in 2014, and $39,000 last year. She could mention her other volunteer work with Do More Metea Valley, a branch of the school's student government, and with the Tri-M Music Honor Society.
And she might just hint at what's ahead for Angie's Hope next year -- her senior year at Metea and the charity's 10th anniversary. So far, all she's saying is that it, like the soccer ball tourneys, will be "big."
She envisions getting lots of people to rally around the cause, as she's done her first three years at Metea with the help of her friends. The award, Angie says, recognizes not just her volunteer spirit, but the giving attitude of her entire school and community.
"Basically the whole school gets involved every year," she said. "I hope it was kind of like them winning with me, too."