Sofia Votava, 17, of Ladera Ranch, a student at San Juan Hills High School, has been honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Sofia Votava

The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. San Juan Hills High School nominated Sofia for national honors this fall in recognition of her volunteer service.;
The “Knead” for Baking, introduces children ages 8-18 to basic baking techniques with a STEAM aspect in order build skill levels and confidence so that the participants might choose to continue baking and learning on their own. In today’s fast-paced society, many families do not take the time to prepare meals, let alone teach their children the basic cooking and baking skills needed to be self-reliant adults. After developing the curriculum and PDF, filming the instructional video, and creating a follow-up assessment and survey, Sofia launched her website www.thekneadforbaking.com. She worked with the All Star Program at Ladera Ranch Middle School, which is a community service program. With over 500 participants, this program was the perfect vehicle for reaching a broad range of students. In the past, students would receive service credit for donating store bought baked goods, or goods baked by parents. There was no way to ensure that the kids were actually baking the goods, or creating a way to control the quality of the goods. This year, participants who wish to donate baked goods to community causes must first complete her “Knead” for Baking program and this way, students are able to learn the life skills that baking has to offer, and the qualities of the cookies will be more up to par. Additionally, Sofia partnered with the Home Baking Association, who provided her with additional resources and information.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.
“Across the United States, young volunteers are doing remarkable things to contribute to the well-being of the people and communities around them,” said Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey. “Prudential is honored to celebrate the contributions of these students, and we hope their stories inspire others to volunteer, too.”
“Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti.  “These honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate.”
Prudential Spirit of Community Award application details were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advanced for state-level judging. In addition to granting President’s Volunteer Service Awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.