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More Than Just a Helping Hand

More Than Just a Helping HandAfter founding a nonprofit at the tender age of nine, Tufts freshman Kayt Norris was recently named to the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans. Washington, D.C.

Boston [11.18.03] This week, a ceremony in the nation's capital inducted 13 people to the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans. Recognized for their dedication to social causes, inductees included a 13-year-old prodigy and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) - and a first-year student at Tufts. The founder of an innovative non-profit called Helping Hands, freshman Kayt Norris was honored for her work helping galvanize young community volunteers.

"Tufts University freshman Kayt Norris [was] one of five young people honored at the 16th annual National Caring Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.," reported The Boston Globe. "With her sister, Maggie, Norris co-founded Helping Hands, a service organization in Quincy, Ill., whose student members have logged more than 12,000 hours of volunteer work."

By compiling a database of young people interested in service, Norris' nonprofit became a source of enthusiastic labor for projects run by a wide variety of service organizations. The Tufts student's program - which she founded before she had turned ten -- was such an effective model for garnering volunteers that it was emulated in communities across the country.

"By the time they were seven and nine, the girls founded Helping Hands, to encourage young people to involve themselves in community projects," reported The Associated Press, in a story that was reprinted internationally in London's The Guardian and in newspapers across the nation. "It keeps a database of young volunteers who can be drafted by local churches and charitable organizations into their campaigns."

Though Helping Hands was the largest of the Norris' service projects, it was not her first community effort.

"Kayt and Maggie Norris were community activists at ages when just spelling ‘community activists' could be too much for many kids," reported the AP. "Before they were old enough for school, they volunteered for cleanup efforts in their hometown of Quincy, Ill., helped deliver Meals on Wheels and raised money for charities."

Because of her work, the Tufts freshman was chosen to introduce President Bill Clinton when he visited Norris' hometown in January 2000. Later that year, she was asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

Norris said that one of her favorite aspects of her work is helping to inspire other young volunteers.

"That's the best part," the Tufts student told AP. "We were in kind of a unique position because we could see the effect we were having on the people we helped but also the effect we were having on the young people who volunteered."

In addition to inducting Norris and her sister into their hall of fame, the Caring Institute awarded them college scholarships for being national leaders in service.

"You are never done learning," Norris told the Caring Institute. "You can learn something from everyone you meet if you keep an open mind. Too many people are stuck in their own culture and prejudices. They need to try to see things through some-one else's eyes."

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