Derry teen Kayla Canning was this week honoured at a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History during the 24th annual presentation of the U.S. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Kayla, aged 17, was joined by her fellow Irish Spirit of Community winner David Giles at the ceremony, where they were presented with special commemorative trophies by Prudential Financial Chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey.
The honorees were also personally congratulated for their outstanding volunteer service by award-winning actress Viola Davis.
Kayla and David were named top youth volunteers by Ireland’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards program in March. They received awards including an all-expense-paid trip to this week’s special recognition events in Washington, D.C.
Kayla, a year 13 student from St. Cecilia’s College, is committed to raising awareness of the importance of mental health. For the past several years, Kayla has been a volunteer at the Kinship Care Group and a Health Champion at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum. Over this time, Kayla has completed more than 250 hours of volunteering.
Through her involvement in these programs, Kayla has developed a deep understanding of the effects of trauma on young people’s lives and the importance of helping them find hope and positivity.
Determined to inspire others, Kayla has spoken directly to youth groups and schools with the goal of increasing awareness of the dangers of substance abuse and promoting the importance of mental health.
Additionally, she is a member of a youth advisory board for the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum.
Through this experience, she had the opportunity to deliver a four-week health and wellbeing program at the Youth Bogside and Brandywell Summer Scheme as well as the “Ur Smile” mental health program in the Long Tower Youth Club.
Over the years, Kayla has been a role model for many, and she is determined to continue to increase awareness of the importance of mental health.
“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc.
“It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”
To learn more about Ireland’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards, visit http://spirit.pramerica.ie/