(Memphis) M’lea Scott, a 14-year-old from Raleigh, spent the weekend in Washington D.C. being honored for her work collecting pennies for the homeless.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honor one middle school and one high school student from each state. M’lea, who attends Craigmont Middle School, was one of the winners.
“I was overly excited. I was just glad. I wasn’t glad that I was going. I was just glad that somebody recognized what I was doing, so I could further it,” she said.
She won $1,000 that she said she'll put right back into the donation fund. During the award ceremony, she met actor Kevin Spacey, and Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix.
M'lea also met the other volunteer honorees from all over the country, and they read to elementary school students at a public school in Washington D.C.
Her project started two years ago when she and her grandmother were in their church parking lot.
“This man walked up to us and asked if we had any money. And she only had her check for church, and I didn’t have any money at all,” she said.
That bothered M’lea, but she knew that even in tough economic times, people would be willing to give up their pennies. She started collecting them, and pretty soon had the support of her school and her family.
In one year, she was able to collect $1,000 to donate to the Union Mission at Thanksgiving. The following year, she gave them $1,500.
Thinking of the homeless people she sees, she said, “Most of them are children and veterans. Veterans are supposed to be the ones taken care of because they helped protect our country.”
In addition to collecting pennies in jars, her grandmother helped her set up a bank account for donations.
Anyone interested in helping can donate to the “Show Your Roll” account at any SunTrust bank.
This year, M’lea hopes to raise $2,000, and donate to both the Union Mission and the Memphis Family Shelter.
Steve Carpenter, director of development for the Union Mission, said in a statement: “We are so happy for M’lea and wish to offer her our sincere congratulations. She is a very impressive young lady and has been a tremendous blessing to our ministry. We can’t think of a better person to honor for her efforts to care for needy people here in our community. Again, congratulations, M’lea! We’re very proud of you!”
M’lea’s award medallion was mailed to her school, where the principal presented it to her in a surprise ceremony.
She also received a presidential volunteer service award from President Barack Obama.
M’lea said that she hopes her story will inspire other teens to do something for their communities.
“Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean that it stops them from starting or doing anything,” she said.
M’lea hopes to become an anesthesiologist one day.