Title. No seriously, that is pretty much what happened.
If you follow me, you may know that I love volunteering. I loved it so much, that I founded a non-profit in 7th grade, Project enVision U.S, dedicated to bring more volunteering opportunities for my peers and provide free educational programs.
Anyways, last year, many people close to me told me to apply for the Prudential Award. Personally, I was very hesitant to apply for an award, as I have never been inclined to ask for anything for my work. I ended up applying and finishing my application minutes before the deadline.
In the days following the submission of the application, I heavily contemplated cancelling my application, much to my parents' dismay. Eventually, the time went by and I completely forgot about it.
Yesterday, I got a letter saying that I had won the Distinguished Finalist Award for California. Honestly, it was great to know that I was being considered for any award at all, but I realized that this award was something I could not accept.
By accepting this award, I would most certainly be invalidating the efforts my volunteers and I have made over the past few years. From building libraries in Africa to starting sustainable STEM programs at Title I schools, Project enVision has accomplished a lot over the years.
I also realized that my resolve to bring positive change would diminish by accepting this award, which would suggest that the work I am doing is not as important as the winner's, or more important than the people not recognized. That is something I don't want to be part of. All volunteering should be celebrated.
Here is what I sent the award committee:
Dear Mr. Lowrey and Ms. Bartoletti,
Thank you for your consideration for me in this Prestigious award. Although I am honored to be considered for any award, I must respectfully decline the Distinguished Finalist Bronze award. By accepting this award, I feel I may be invalidating the hard work my volunteers and I have done for our community and city. Accepting this award would also suggest that the contributions we have made together are not as important, or more important than others, which is far from the truth.
Applying for this award was something that many close to me recommended seeing my hard work and passion to bring positive change to the community. For me, I don't volunteer for recognition, rather for the joy of volunteering and spreading that joy. Sadly, I feel that this award does not acknowledge the positive change, hard work put in, and importance; and as such may demotivate both me and others in my non-profit. I would be setting a bad example for my peers by accepting the message that my non-profit's cause is not important, and hence not worth investing time into.
My resolve to bring more positive change for my community, city, state, nation, and world will only get stronger from here, where I feel it may diminish by accepting this award.
I would like to thank the The Prudential Foundation and National Association of Secondary School Principals for running this program. Unfortunately, I didn't qualify and hence I must respectfully decline this award. I would kindly request that my name not be submitted to the media, and that my award be given to someone else who can accept this award.
Frankly, I don't think these volunteering awards are a big deal. While it would have been great to win the grand prize, I would have made the same decision to decline the award. Personally, I learned a lot from this whole situation because I don't plan to ever apply for a volunteering award in the future again.
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