Rachel Mackie is nothing if not accomplished: she’s even trained a pet rooster to walk on a leash.
That notwithstanding, for a 13-year-old Rachel has managed to find the time to get involved in a lot of activities. As president of her school’s 4-H club, she led an effort just before the holidays to collect more than 900 donations for Kent County’s homeless, set up a Christmas tree at the Code Purple facility in Dover and even arranged to have 200 ornaments created for the tree.
Oh, yes, she also organized her school’s knitting club to create 50 caps for the homeless.
Rachel’s efforts recently earned her the distinction of being named Delaware’s middle school recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Kayleigh Barnes of the Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences is the First State’s high school honoree.
The awards are based on student’s participation in volunteer services; she also earned a $1,000 award, a silver medallion and a May 2017 trip to Washington D.C. where she could be named one of the nation’s 10 top youth volunteers.
One of 4H’s basic tenets is helping others, mom Karen Russell said, and it was special to see Rachel lead other 4-H’ers in getting to work and helping people they didn’t even know.
“Watching the kids take over and turn this into a community event was phenomenal to watch,” she said.
For Rachel, it was an experience she’d never expected.
“I actually didn’t think about homeless people,” Rachel said. “I didn’t think much of them because I didn’t see them. But once we started working with Code Purple, I met some people who were homeless or who had been homeless.
“I thought they were really cool people,” she said. “If some of them had been the same age as me, I would have hung out together with them.”
Rachel is looking forward to the coming, all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital, except for one thing: she’ll have to get dressed up.
“I’ll wear my high tops,” she said. “They’re dressy to me!”
How would you describe yourself when it comes to volunteering?
I like the activities I do to help people. I enjoy them and I also like knowing I am helping someone, that another person can benefit from something I do.
There were 29,000 applications nationwide and you’re one of two selectees from Delaware. How does that make you feel?
I was actually very surprised. At first I thought, OK, this is an award, but I didn’t really understand what it meant. But my mom started screaming, ‘Yay! You have to call your grandparents.’ My grandmother started crying, so I thought maybe this is pretty big.
To receive this award, you have to demonstrate real leadership. How would you define a leader?
A leader is a person who would help others in a group accomplish a certain goal and direct them in a way to accomplish that goal. They have to be confident in themselves. People should be caring toward others because if you don’t care and you want to lead, what’s the point?