Spirit of Service: Agoo, Kamahele Win Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Award

Leigh Berry, Reporter

      The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is the largest community service award in the U.S., announcing 102 finalists every year since their founding in 1995. On Feb. 2, the PSCA chose local homeschool sixth grader Rylee-Brooke Kamahele and Senior Joie Agoo to be this year’s honorees for the state of Hawai‘i.

      “When I found out I won the award, I was kind of like, ‘Is this real?’ My mom and I had to read the letter like four times to make sure we were reading it right. I danced around my kitchen while my mom read it out loud,” said Agoo. 

      Every year, two students are chosen from each state and the District of Columbia to represent the nation’s top youth volunteers. To apply, students must write a 600-word essay describing a community service project they participated in or directed.

      The project Agoo focused on was the YMCA’s Houseless Project, which she helped create in 2018 with a few friends. The Houseless Project allows volunteers to build relationships within Hawai‘i’s homeless community by providing opportunities for conversation while handing out supplies such as lunches and water bottles. 

      “This topic is important to me because it is something that I have seen grow and expand more than I could have ever imagined. It started because my friends and I talked to Wahiawa students, parents and teachers, and we wanted to help,” said Agoo.

      Kamahele’s project was the Catalyst Club; an organization she created at the age of eight, providing kids with the ability to have a positive impact in their communities. The Catalyst Club encompasses three smaller organizations: the Secret Santa Project Hawai‘i, the Promise to Our Keiki and the Love is a Verb foundation.

     “So I kind of had to go out and make my own path and show them it’s not always babysitting. Some people just really really want to be here. And that’s what started my love for community service and just everything,” said Kamahele.

      As a part of winning the title of state honoree, the girls received a $1,000 scholarship, a silver medallion and a trip to Washington D.C. for the PSCA’s national award ceremony. At the ceremony, 10 finalists will have a chance to win the title of national honoree, which will award them with $5,000 towards an organization of their choosing and a gold medallion. 

     “The Prudential Spirit Award had so many people that entered from all around the world and I am so blessed and happy that I’ve got this, but my heart hasn’t changed from that,” Kamahele said.

     The girls will attend the national award ceremony in D.C. from May 2 to 5, where the national finalists will be announced.