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13-year-old logs 1,000 volunteer hours in two years

Macon Telegraph - 3/15/2017

March 14--Most people would need decades to put in a 1,000 hours of community service, but a Houston County 13-year-old accomplished that in just two years.

Kelsey Norris, a sixth-grader at Bonaire Middle School who is autistic, is Georgia's top middle school volunteer for 2017. Every year, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards recognizes one middle school and one high school student from each state and Washington, D.C., for their service efforts.

Kelsey was presented with a medal at the Houston County Board of Education's meeting Tuesday. She will receive $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., at the beginning of May, when she will find out if she is one of 10 national winners. Her community service hours also earned her a fifth President's Volunteer Service Award.

"It's amazing," said Josh Hirsch, Kelsey's teacher at Bonaire. "It shows her hard work and dedication to helping people."

Kelsey's love for volunteerism sparked in kindergarten, when she started visiting child care centers to talk about her life. Kelsey was adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 14 months old. Now, the teen volunteers every weekend and sometimes a few days after school each week, too.

Flint Humane Society, Backpack Buddies and Adventure Bags are her three main projects. She is the Houston County coordinator for the latter. In addition, Kelsey has raised more than $20,000 for a number of organizations, including Children's Miracle Network, Shriners Hospitals and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

"Kelsey shows that every child can make a difference, whether they have a disability or not," Carol Norris said. "Kelsey has such a kind, giving heart. I'm proud of how much she's accomplished."

Carol Norris said the volunteer work has helped improve her daughter's communication skills. Principal Cindy Randall said Kelsey is always smiling and friendly and is very engaged in her studies.

"With everything she has been involved in outside of school, she's made a big impression in her first semester at Bonaire," said Randall, who nominated Kelsey for the award.

When she's not volunteering, Kelsey is active in dance, gymnastics and swim team. She enjoys writing, drawing, jumping on the trampoline and playing with her two rescue dogs. She has participated in more than 100 pageants.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea


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