By Emma Castleberry
Seth Bellamy, a sophomore at School of Inquiry & Life Sciences at Asheville (SILSA), was chosen as a Distinguished Finalist for North Carolina in the 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The awards are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Finalists from each state, as well as two State Honorees and a select number of Distinguished Finalists, were selected based on criteria such as personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth. “The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service,” says Greg Loder, executive director of The Prudential Spirit of Community Initiative. “The program was started to recognize young people in their communities and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too.”
Loder says Bellamy excels in all four of the award criteria. “Seth saw a need in his community,” Loder says. “He used his passion to make a positive impact on his community and mobilize young people.” Bellamy helped start Keepin’ It Real, a school club that promotes volunteerism among African-American middle school students and raises awareness of racial inequities and social injustice. “Keepin’ It Real was created to turn tension into intention,” says Bellamy. “Last year, I stumbled upon the fact that I am the only African-American male in my SILSA class, which is both startling and daunting. To fix this issue for incoming classes, I wanted to create a club with other students who experience the same issues and build an equitable future.”
Keepin’ It Real hosts meetings twice on Fridays, to accommodate members with transportation challenges. The group has hosted two successful clothing donation drives to support Asheville’s homeless population and is developing a peer support team for students. Keepin’ It Real members also met with the school board and school administrators to discuss solutions for bridging the performance gap. “I see the club as being a major part of both the school and greater community, sparking greater change and being a safe place for all to talk about equitable solutions when it comes to race and inclusion,” says Bellamy. “I hope that our club can be a cornerstone for academic achievement and student volunteerism.”
Bellamy says that volunteering is important because it offers students some human contact and momentary solace in a busy world. “They also get personal, hands-on experience with others who are interested in the progress and prosperity of the community,” he says. “Volunteering is imperative for youth because of its ability to widen perspective and highlight the importance of selflessness. It is easy to get entrenched in our personal lives to the point where we forget about the struggles and lives of others.”
For more information on the rest of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community Awards State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit Spirit.Prudential.com.