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Teen Leaders Who Make a Difference
By Ezra Billinkoff

Colleen Judge
Colleen Judge, 16, of Dayton, Ohio, was named one of America's top ten youth volunteers for 2005. The event that Colleen organized, Giving Strings orchestra, raises money for organizations that help kids.
Community service is not just a school requirement for some teens. In fact, for Jarrett Patterson and Colleen Judge, it's a big part of their lives outside of school. Now, the two teens are receiving major honors for becoming community leaders.

Jarrett, 14, is the founder and manager of Kids Closet. He started the organization in August 2003, to help kids at his school in Hudson, Michigan, who needed new clothing, but could not afford it. "I see students that wear the same clothes every day," Jarrett said. "They get teased about what they're wearing." By managing the project, Jarrett has become a true leader within his community.

Colleen is also a leader in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Colleen, 16, has organized an annual community charity concert in her neighborhood for the last five years. Colleen named the event Giving Strings Orchestra because donations from the event go toward organizations that help kids.

"I wanted to do something for charity," Colleen told Scholastic News Online. "This year we're donating the money to the Daybreak shelter for older teens."

Prudential Financial has recognized Colleen and Jarrett not only for their community service, but also for their leadership within their communities. The charities the two teens work for each receive $5,000 from Prudential. Colleen will also give the donations she collected at her charity concert in early August. Jarrett will use the award money to build up his organization.

Colleen Judge
Colleen Judge and members of her organization.
Kids Closet

Through Kids Closet, Jarrett and teachers work closely to find students who are in need of new clothing. The teachers notify Jarrett with specific requests, and Jarrett sets out the items from an actual closet of donated clothes. The teachers pick up the clothes and give them directly to the child in need, while keeping the students anonymous.

Jarrett told Scholastic News Online that he has learned a thing or two about being a community leader. "Always stick with your project no matter how big or small it is," he said. "It doesn't matter who thinks it's cool."

Giving Strings

Colleen has some similar advice about leadership. "If you really have an idea and you stick to it, you can accomplish really anything," she said.

Colleen told Scholastic News Online about Giving Strings. "I was planning it to be just a really small charity concert on my street during a block party," she said. She had arranged for her school orchestra—where she played cello—to perform. After an advertisement in the newspaper, 40 musicians showed up ready to participate. This year, the concert included more than 100 musicians.

Leadership = Teamwork

Neither of the winners feels they could have accomplished anything without a team supporting them. When asked about the teachers who help with Kids Closet, Jarrett said, "They're a huge part of it."

Colleen feels similarly about teamwork with Giving Strings Orchestra. "It feels good to be a leader of such a great organization, but it really comes down to everybody working together," she said.

Both Jarrett and Colleen's award-winning leadership hold lessons for anyone looking to be more involved in the community. According to them, staying focused on your goals is important. You must also be able to accept help when you need it. "It's hard to get a lot done by yourself," said Colleen. "You need a lot of teamwork."

Are you a community leader? You can apply for the 2005-2006 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards online. Applications are available beginning in September.