Aaron Berson, age 16, of San Ramon, California—a rising senior at Fusion Academy in Walnut Creek—has been honored for his exemplary volunteer service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.
The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by the Prudential Spirit of the Community Awards program. Fusion Academy Walnut Creek (Head of School, Sarah Nantais, and Post-Secondary Counselor, Lauren Walters) nominated Aaron for national honors this fall in recognition of his volunteer service with the UCSF Teen Advisory Council (TAC). Aaron started TAC in January 2016 and has worked directly with the USCF staff in managing the program since then.
As Aaron writes in his application statement, “For the past five years, I have suffered from chronic migraine. But I am not alone. Nearly two percent of all children and teens, nationwide, suffer from chronic migraines and chronic headache disorders. In addition to these teens’ physical health, they face daily challenges with navigating through society with an invisible chronic illness that affects their education, social, and emotional needs. Many of these teens are isolated and never realize that there is an entire community of people like them that are here to offer support. This realization inspired me to envision, design, and lead a Teen Advisory Council in cooperation with the Pediatric Headache Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the hopes of advocating and building a community with other teens suffering from migraines and other headache disorders and their impacted families. To name a few accomplishments, in just the past two years, we have filmed an awareness video, hosted picnic socials for teens and their families, and began an advocacy dialogue with a California Assemblywoman to discuss the challenges that teens with these headache disorders face. My commitment to this community has resulted in more than 200 hours of activity with the Council.”
Head of School at Fusion Academy, Sarah Nantais, remarks, “We couldn’t be more proud of Aaron. He is a brave and bold student leader on our campus and within our community. He leads with compassion, innovation, and courage, and his work with the Teen Advisory Council is testament to this. Within our non-traditional educational model (all teaching takes place with a 1:1 teacher to student ratio), Aaron is encouraged to take hold of his education, and each year he curates a selection of courses that enhance his investigations into neuroscience and his other personal passions. Outside of these walls, it’s evident he’s embracing this mentality as well! We can’t wait to see what he’ll take on during his senior year with us.’’
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.
“The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community.”
“Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “These honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate.”
Prudential Spirit of Community Award applications were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs ad Affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advanced for state-level judging. In addition to granting President’s Volunteer Service Awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact, and personal growth.