Almanac

Community - May 14, 2014

Teen honored nationally for volunteer work

Jessica Bird, a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Atherton, is one of 10 young volunteers across the nation honored with a 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her work combating sex-trafficking worldwide.

The award was announced May 5, and the 10 recipients were celebrated at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

An 18-year-old Atherton resident, Ms. Bird learned in February that she was a finalist for the award when she was chosen as the top high school-age volunteer in California for 2014.

In an April article in the Almanac, she said that her current volunteer work began on a church mission trip to Costa Rica in 2012, when she volunteered at a safe house for sex-trafficking victims. After that experience, she set out to learn more about global sex-trafficking networks, and worked to educate her school community and others about the problem.

In March 2013, Ms. Bird was one of 125 youth delegates from around the world at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women's session, where she spoke on the sex-trafficking issue.

According to the sponsoring group, Prudential Financial, when Ms. Bird's church canceled its annual service trip to the Costa Rica safe house in 2013, "Jessica recruited five friends and three adults to make the trip on their own. While there, her team built a chicken coop, refurbished a greenhouse, and created a job training program so that the six girls at the safe house would not have to fall back into prostitution.

"The girls also were taught how to cook healthy meals, sell produce at a farmers' market, manage money, and exercise leadership and responsibility skills."

Each award winners is given $5,000 and a $5,000 grant to turn over to a charitable organization of the winner's choice.

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