A fifth-grade student at Moriches Elementary School, has been selected as New York State’s top “middle level” youth volunteer for 2021 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Student Caitlyn Michiels was one of just two students honored in the state, and one of only 102 honored in the nation by America’s largest youth recognition program based on volunteer service.
Honorees were selected for service initiatives completed in part between fall 2019 and fall 2020, and based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project.
Caitlyn has anterior bilateral uveitis, a rare disease that causes inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. The disease is the the third leading cause of blindness in children.
Caitlyn was selected for her work with her non-profit organization, Caitlyn’s Vision, which works to promote eye health awareness.
Some of Caitlyn’s initiatives include partnering with the Lions Club International to collect and donate more than 700 pairs of eyeglasses for children who cannot afford them, raising over $30,000 to help children pay for eye care and purchasing and donating fluorescent light covers for every William Floyd School District elementary school to reduce classroom lighting for those with visual impairments, attention disorders and epilepsy.
As a third grader, Caitlyn reached out to Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman and worked with him to designate the month of August each year as “Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month.”
In a press release, Caitlyn said: “I hope I will be able to keep helping children for a long time, and would love to find new ways of helping kids with visual impairments.”
“Caitlyn Michiels is an incredible young lady who continues to amaze me every single day,” Moriches Elementary School principal Deirdre Redding said. “She has developed a vision and committed herself to promoting awareness to childhood eye health and helping other children in our community and beyond. Her accomplishments and perseverance make her stand out as a truly exceptional student and leader. Caitlyn has left an impact on Moriches Elementary School that will never be forgotten. I am so excited for her bright future ahead.”
For her efforts, Caitlyn will receive a $2,500 scholarship, an engraved silver medallion and the opportunity to participate in a virtual celebration to honor her and her fellow 101 honorees.
Caitlyn has the opportunity to become one of 10 recipients selected as a national honoree and earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy and a $5,000 grant for the charity of her choice.
Caitlyn will also be receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award for volunteering a “significant amount of time serving her community and country.” She will receive a certificate and a letter this summer from President Joe Biden.
The Prudential Spirt of Community Awards, held annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, honors students in grades five through 12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.
“We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential's chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they're making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.”