WASHINGTON (WCIV) -- Summerville native and world-changer Katie Stagliano has been recognized as of the America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2014.
Last week the 15-year-old founder of Katie's Krops was honored by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's 19th annual national award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Stagliano was selected among a pool of more than 30,000 youth volunteers from across the country and has been designated a National Honoree. She was also given a $5,000 award, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and another $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit of her choice.
Stagliano established Katie's Krops to help kids across the country create and maintain more than 60 vegetable gardens, which have yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce to feed people in need.
Her gardening career began in third grade when she brought home cabbage seedlings.
"I tended to my cabbage and cared for it until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds," said Stagliano.
She then took her cabbage to a local soup kitchen, where it helped feed 275 hungry people.
"I began to wonder: if one cabbage could feed 275 people, imagine how many people a whole garden could feed," she said.
From there, her garden went from her backyard to one the size of a football field at her school, Pinewood Prep. Stagliano reached out to the master gardener at Clemson University and they turned the garden into a source for food for soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Five years later, "Katie's Krops" is a nonprofit organization that has raised over $250,000 through a website and individual and corporate donations to provide grants for 9-to-16-year-olds who want to grow vegetables to feed the hungry in their communities.
Katie's Krops has spread across the country; there are now 61 student-run gardens stretching from Maine to Hawaii. Locally, Stagliano's garden is producing 3,000 pounds of produce each year.
"I am proud to grow healthy food, prevent hunger and empower kids to grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities," said Stagliano.
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.
"These honorees are shining examples of what is possible when young people use their energy and initiative to help their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "We are proud to recognize their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future."
"Through their service, these students have not only made a difference in the lives of others - they've provided their peers with a powerful example of what it looks like to be an outstanding youth volunteer," said Barbara-Jane Paris, president of NASSP. "Congratulations to each of the 2014 honorees for a job well done."
In addition to Stagliano, these are the other 2014 National Honorees:
Jessica Bird, 18, of Atherton, Calif., a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory, is a dedicated advocate for young sex-trafficking victims around the world, and last year led a team to Costa Rica to provide girls at a safe house with the skills to build a life outside of prostitution.
Lillian Diuble, 11, of Manchester, Mich., a sixth-grader at Manchester Middle School, leads a team that has raised more than $78,000 over the past four years for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which is devoted to developing treatments and cures for eye diseases like the one affecting Lillian.
Sean Egan, 18, of Staten Island, N.Y., a senior at Monsignor Farrell High School, founded an organization of more than 300 students who assist and thank veterans of the U.S. armed forces by sponsoring events, providing goods and services, and visiting military hospitals.
Elijah Evans, 16, of Youngsville, La., a sophomore at Comeaux High School, works in his community to raise awareness of child abuse and improve the lives of foster children by promoting and hosting an annual Christmas party for children in foster care.
Kaylee Graham, 14, of Florence, Ore., an eighth-grader at Siuslaw Middle School, initiated an annual citywide day of service in her town that has motivated more than 3,000 residents to work on community improvement projects, raise money for charity, donate food, and take part in other volunteer activities over the past three years.
Morgan Guess, 11, of Paducah, Ky., a fifth-grader at Lone Oak Intermediate School, has worked with her mother to focus local, state and national attention on the problem of bullying through a variety of measures, after Morgan herself was bullied.
William Lourcey, 11, of Fort Worth, Texas, a volunteer ambassador with the Volunteer Center of North Texas and a fifth-grader at Trinity Valley School, is the founder and CEO of a service group that organizes fun events to raise money and awareness to fight hunger, and to encourage young people to get involved in their community.
Kinsey Morrison, 17, of Goshen, Ky., a senior at St. Francis High School, is a motivational speaker who's delivered more than 50 speeches on a variety of topics and helped raise a significant amount of money for dozens of charities.
Michael Stolzenberg, 14, of Weston, Fla., an eighth-grader at Pine Crest School, has raised more than $225,000 to help rebuild the lives of people who lost limbs when terrorists detonated two bombs during the 2013 Boston Marathon.