Iyonia Boyce, a 14-year-old student at Collierville Middle School, and Sara Puryear, 18, of Nashville were named Tennessee’s top two youth volunteers of 2015 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 20th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Boyce, an eighth-grader at Collierville Middle School, founded a mentoring group that volunteers for a variety of charities and conducts numerous activities to combat bullying. Iyonia realized the importance of community service after volunteering for the March of Dimes and learning about all the medical issues facing premature babies.
So, in 2009 she formed “Little Divas in Training” to encourage other students to volunteer.
In the years since, her group has raised funds and collected donated items worth more than $20,000 for organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Girls Inc.
The group also works to prevent bullying, which Boyce experienced in the fourth grade. Like so many others, Boyce suffered in silence, but when her parents got involved and a local student committed suicide after being bullied, Boyce decided to speak out and put bullying education on her Little Divas agenda.
Boyce has made presentations to more than 4,500 students about how to identify and manage bullying situations, and performs interactive exercises to foster understanding of victims’ feelings. She also has taken her anti-bullying message to the media and is involved in a bullying prevention group at her school.
In addition, Little Divas has hosted an anti-bullying workshop, a teen dating and domestic violence brunch, and a pageant to instill confidence in girls who have been bullied.
The group also collected over 100 dresses for girls who couldn’t afford to buy their own for homecoming and prom dances.
“I want to show my peers that you can do anything if you believe in yourself and work hard,” said Boyce.
As State Honorees, both girls will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an allexpense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events.
During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2015.