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2 local teens win national volunteer awards

Meghana Reddy and Kenan Pala

SAN DIEGO – Two students at Francis Parker School in San Diego were among the top 10 youth volunteers of 2017 who were named Monday during the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Washington, D.C.

Meghana Reddy, 18, uses a 3D printer to make artificial hands for people in poor countries who cannot afford commercial prostheses.

Kenan Pala, 13, started a program to benefit San Diego’s homeless population.

“These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc.

Reddy, a Francis Parker senior who lives in La Mesa, said she saw children with missing limbs in an orphanage in India during a family trip in 2014.

“I was moved to do something to help them,” she said.

Upon returning home, she id some research online and learned how 3D printers can be used to create inexpensive objects, including prostheses.

After experimenting, she found a way to make artificial hands for $30. Working with charities, she has produced 100 and formed a nonprofit called “Limbs of Love.”

Reddy has also set up a website to seek donations, assembled an advisory board of doctors and educators, and recruited students from several high schools to help, according to award organizers. In addition, she has started clubs in several schools to engage more students in her mission.

Kenan, a seventh-grader from San Diego, started Food4Homeless, which has raised $5,000 in donations to area homeless shelters and provided meals to more than 2,000 people.

Last year, he led students at his school in collecting nearly 4,000 boxes of cereal to create the world’s largest cardboard box mosaic on the school’s gymnasium floor, setting an official Guinness World’s Record. All of the boxes — plus an additional 2,000 — were then donated to the Interfaith Community Shelter.

The bot said he was spurred into action by a trip to the beach, where he saw a crowd around a sick baby seal, yet no one worried about a nearby homeless person.

“I sat in the car thinking about why a sick baby seal was surrounded by concerned citizens while a hungry homeless man was receiving no help,” Kenan said.

Reddy and Kenan were picked from a field of more than 31,000 youth volunteers from across the country. They won $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.