by Beth Browne
Kendra McIntosh is only fourteen years old, but she has already completed more community and worldwide activism than most adults. This spring, the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award’s Program honored her exemplary volunteer service with a state-level Certificate of Excellence, placing her in the top ten percent statewide for community service hours. Kendra earned the award for a Girl Scout Silver Award project in which she organized an event to combat teen issues, such as texting and driving, cyber bullying , drug and alcohol use, seatbelt safety, and fire safety.
To earn the award, Kendra had to complete seven detailed steps that included identifying issues she cared about, building a team, devising and completing a plan that she reflected on and shared afterwards. She decided on the awareness campaign for teens after a conversation with her grandfather shortly before he died. He told Kendra about Ashley Johnson, a sixteen-year-old Asheville girl, who died while texting and driving. Kendra resolved to fight the problem of texting while driving, and other issues, in her awareness campaign.
She recruited her friend Bobbi Tunnell and they enlisted the support of local police and state troopers, secured a venue, and organized an event. They made large displays with pictures and information about different topics concerning teens. Law enforcement officers provided a smashed car and booth that allowed kids to feel crash impact while wearing a seatbelt. The event was such a success that Kendra is planning to offer the event to high school students as well, hopefully to coincide with next year’s prom.
That’s not all Kendra is up to. A year ago, she was researching an actor she admired and discovered the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF). Somerhalder, best known for his roles in the TV dramas Lost and The Vampire Diaries, started the foundation on his thirty-second birthday after helping cleanup the disastrous oil spill off the coast of his native Louisiana. Because of her willingness to help and take action, Kendra was invited to become an ISF Mobstir/Ambassador for the Youth Team. Composed of six kids, ages 13-18, they represent their peers on the board and work with the ISF Team of Official Volunteers on articles, videos, and campaigns. Kendra has written a number of articles for the website and contributed photos and videos.
Kendra writes with amazing passion about her love for animals and conducted an interview for the ISF website with Asheville’s Brother Wolf Animal Rescue founder, Denise Bitz.
She’s very excited about fundraising for ISF’s Animal Sanctuary, (www.isfoundation.com/campaign/isf-animal-sanctuary) which will provide a safe home for animals so badly abused that they can never be adopted. Additionally, the sanctuary will give children and youth with anger issues the opportunity to foster compassion for animals by working with mental health professionals.
Kendra has pledged ten dollars a month from her allowance and chore money for the next two years for a total of $240. She is actively recruiting friends and family on Twitter to do likewise. The foundation hopes to raise five million dollars to start building the sanctuary and bring Somerhalder’s dream to life.
Kendra is also excited about the B.O.B. business (BuiltofBarnwood.com) that Somerhalder started with his brother Bob from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. From reclaimed wood, they make beautiful table accents, home décor, and crosses. A portion of the proceeds will help ISF fund the animal sanctuary.
Many other young people are beginning to speak out about the issues affecting our world today, using the Internet to good effect. Kendra has recently joined the ranks of the ISF Kids Army. Using Twitter, thousands of kids across America and worldwide are spreading the word about issues that they feel strongly about and are raising awareness and funds. One of Kendra’s fundraising projects is the documentary film Kids of the Gulf (www.kidsofthegulf.com). The film is a joint effort between ISF and Brandon Sutton, the film’s director, about the lingering effects of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Eight-year-old Devon Haas and fourteen-year-old Devin Beach, who have a combined following on Twitter of well over ten thousand people, spawned the film’s idea.
These kids are tough, too. When people on Twitter began tweeting messages of hate and disrespect, Devon immediately notified them that bullying behavior against any group would not be tolerated, and she reported them to the authorities for Internet hate crimes. These young kids easily speak out for their beliefs.
Kendra has been volunteering in her community and speaking out since she was very young. She joined Girl Scouts in the fourth grade and has since contributed to many community service projects, including volunteering at animal shelters, cleaning up a local school, painting fire hydrants, and volunteering in the kids’ section at the downtown area of the Asheville’s Bele Chere festival.
Kendra visited Savannah with her Girl Scout troop and enjoyed touring Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace. She is looking forward to a trip to New York next year. Twice monthly, she serves as a juror in the Buncombe County Teen Court Program.
For the past three years, Kendra played flute in the school’s marching band, but other commitments prevent her from continuing; she looks forward to playing in the concert band when she enters high school this fall at TC Roberson. Her favorite subject is English; she loves to read but says that she doesn’t have a favorite book because she reads so many.
By nature a quiet person, Kendra finds her voice easily whenever she perceives any wrongdoing. In the cafeteria at lunch one day Kendra noticed students wasting plastic drinking straws by shooting the papers across the room. She became so incensed by such a senseless waste of natural resources that she went straight to the principal and suggested that officials remove drinking straws from the school.
Kendra has a speech impediment and has been receiving speech therapy at school since Pre-K. As a result, Kendra suffered teasing and bullying in her early school years, so she learned to speak out against such behavior and to work for prevention.
She has been meeting in Atlanta with members of the ISF Kids Army from all over the United States to develop and produce a short video to combat bullying.
Kendra has also narrated a video for the ISF to raise awareness about the dangers of over-fishing. The video was a particular triumph because of Kendra’s speaking difficulty. In the video, Kendra pointed out that if fishing practices are not changed fish will become extinct by 2048. Additionally, she suggested a solution to make fishing more sustainable: larger nets that allow smaller fish to escape. Kendra is hoping Somerhalder and the IS Foundation will make a large-scale cleanup effort in the East Coast, as they did in California in April 2012.
Her courage in speaking out for the animals of our world is admirable; what she may accomplish in her future is exciting to consider. Kendra says that she looks forward to “. . . a world where people treat others, human and animal, with compassion, respect, and dignity. Where human nature’s spirit is as happy and courteous toward all humanity as during the Christmas season. Where a neighbor is a friend who always stands to support you and lifts you up when you need a hand. Where an animal’s true love is appreciated and taken for what it is: unconditional love. And humans protect our planet and animals just as they would their own children. We only have one planet, and we must protect it. And remember, as the ISF Kids Army declares: LOVE IS LOUDER.”
Links and Resources:
Follow Kendra on Twitter @ISF_KIDSARMY_NC and @RamtasticTeen
To learn more about the ISF Animal Sanctuary or to donate, please visit: http://www.isfoundation.com/campaign/isf-animal-sanctuary
Ian Somerhalder Foundation @ http://www.isfoundation.com/
Beth Browne writes because she just can’t stop herself. Her two kids wish she liked cooking as much as writing. In her spare time she enjoys sailing on Pamlico Sound with her best mate, Eric, and blogging at: http://bbwomenswrites.blogspot.com.