Forest Preserve District of Will County volunteer Grace Xu recently received a 2016 Naperville Youth Service Award.
Xu, 13, a student at Scullen Middle School in Naperville, was nominated for the award by Renee Gauchat, the Forest Preserve District’s volunteer supervisor.
Gauchat said she has been impressed by Xu's enthusiasm for the District's volunteer program and the work she has accomplished removing invasive species from the preserves and helping out at special events.
"Youth like this make recruiting volunteers worthwhile," Gauchat said. "And I do hope to see more of her as well at future events and natural resource management workdays."
Xu said she thought volunteering for the Forest Preserve District would be fun.
"But it is actually very hard work," she wrote in an email. "However, after the event, I feel I helped the community to be better. This is why I enjoy doing this, and I would like to come back next year to continue."
Xu's father, Jack Xu, and mother, Ji Wang, also volunteer for the Forest Preserve District and other organizations.
"We are active participants of the community and really enjoy meeting people and helping people," Jack Xu wrote in an email. "Having our daughter also participating in the activities is a very good way for her to contribute to the community and learn the teamwork spirit."
Naperville has been giving out the youth awards in recognition of "outstanding service to the community" since 1993.
The awards are designed " … to encourage all youth to get involved in community service that will give them a sense of purpose, provide them with valuable hands-on experiences, and ignite the volunteer spirit that has helped make Naperville the thriving community it is today," according to a letter to Grace Xu from KidsMatter, a Naperville nonprofit which is dedicated to "empowering kids to realize endless possibilities" and partners with the city on the awards.
Xu received the award at a special ceremony in November with Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico and the City Council.
In the letter informing Xu of the award, Bridget Hatch, marketing and event director for KidsMatter, lauded the teenager for her hard work on behalf of the Forest Preserve District.
"You are a young person who truly makes a positive difference in the lives of others, as well as in your community," Hatch wrote. "On behalf of Mayor Chirico, the City Council, and KidsMatter, please accept our heartfelt thanks for the gift of volunteerism you have shared."Photo courtesy of Jo Lundeen