By SMCHS Staff     1/10/2017

Sydney Fredette and Isabella Zintel were named the Santa Margarita Catholic High School volunteers of the year in the 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. In addition, Emily Caraig, Cassidy Medina and Natalie Rule received Certificates of Merit for their volunteer community service.

Sponsored by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the awards recognize outstanding community service by young Americans. Sydney and Isabella are now eligible for California youth volunteer of the year awards. Two state honorees, one middle school and one high school student, will be named in February. State honorees will receive a $1,000 award and attend ceremonies with a parent or guardian in May of 2017. Other honorees will receive bronze medallions or certificates of excellence.

Sydney Fredette started out with an idea to throw tea parties for homeless children. Her idea has evolved over the past nine years into an organization that has served more than 2,000 children, gifting them with custom bears, blankets, pajamas, sleeping bags and books during the Christmas season. Sydney founded an initiative called “Beary Merry Christmas” in 2007 to make children in her community happy by gifting them custom stuffed bears. Sydney and her team of volunteers have distributed more than $70,000 in goods and necessities to disadvantaged children and she has expanded her “Be the Change Club” to other schools.

Isabella Zintel used her love of dance to start a dance program through the Boys and Girls Club. She is the founder of a girls’ mentorship and empowerment program that teaches academic success and leadership skills, nurtures confidence and encourages healthy living through diet and dance. She teaches dance to at-risk youth as an after school program. She has worked with vendors to set up a voucher program to help families get healthy groceries at a discounted cost, wrote a children’s recipe book that incorporated healthy food, raised donations to purchase a hydro garden and filmed an instructional dance video so that girls can exercise and stay healthy while they learn dance from home.

The Certificate of Merit awards were presented to Emily, Cassidy and Natalie. Emily Caraig has volunteered at the Saddleback Food Pantry since the age of 6, doing everything from packing bagels to gleaning more than 3,000 pounds of food, and serving sandwiches and soup in Santa Ana. Cassidy Medina assists children and adults with disabilities at the Shea Center in San Juan Capistrano where she helps children learn to ride horses and socializes with clients. She also volunteers with Special Olympics helping set up events and run programs for children. Natalie Rule volunteers at her local library, participates in beach cleanups, serves the homeless, helps with community concerts and assists at homes for women and children.