Youths from region recognized for volunteerism

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 5:21 p.m.

Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz's love of origami began when she was a little girl, which wasn't that long ago.

The Pine resident, 16, is such a fan of the Japanese art of folding paper into the shapes of such things as flowers and animals that in 2009 she founded Origami Salami, which uses the art to teach principals of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, to children.

There are 11 child-run chapters in the United States and Australia, as well as a spinoff community service organization, Folding for Good.

“It's also just to increase the amount of people that were interested in STEM,” said Frederick-Jaskiewicz, a junior at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. She is enrolled in a mechanical engineering progression program at Robert Morris University.

Folding for Good members helped make 50 Eastern dragon origami pieces for an auction in November that raised $1,300 for the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Gala, which benefits international adoption programs.

For her efforts, Frederick-Jaskiewicz has been named one of eight Distinguished Finalists in Pennsylvania for the 18th Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The awards, conducted by Prudential Financial Inc. of Newark, N.J. with the National Association of Secondary School Principals of Reston, Va. recognize young people for outstanding volunteerism.

The program began in 1995. More than 100,000 volunteers have been honored since, Prudential officials said.

There were about 30,000 applicants for this year's Spirit of Community Awards, said Leisl Moriarty of the principals association, who consults for the Prudential program.

Youth considered for Prudential awards were nominated for the President's Volunteer Service Award, given on behalf of the president to adults and students who tally a certain number of volunteer hours. Hours range by age and must be served within a year. Bronze, silver and gold awards are made.

The Points of Light Institute in Atlanta and the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington issue the presidential awards nationally, parsing applications submitted by 25,000 organizations. Melanie Stevenson, director of recognition programs at Points of Light, said Pennsylvania organizations requested awards for 326 children.

Locally, winners of President's awards who were nominated by Prudential include Keystone Oaks High School seniors Kathryn Bissert, 17, and Ryan Tang, 18, and junior Elizabeth Flaherty, 17; North Hills High School seniors Anna and Robyn Madrishin, 18, who are twins; and Maria Jay, 14, an eighth-grader at Independence Middle School in the Bethel Park School District.

Bissert, a Green Tree resident who received an Award of Excellence — given to the top 10 percent of Prudential applicants in the state — received recognition for her work with the Kids and a Cause organization she founded about six years ago with her sister, Kelsie, 15, a Keystone Oaks freshman, and four cousins. The purses they create and sell to benefit the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside raised more than $15,000 for the organization.

“Every member in our group had family members or friends that had gone to the Hillman Cancer Center. So we want to give back to them and basically say ‘Thank you,' ” Kathryn Bissert said.

Flaherty, of Dormont, volunteers at her church, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and elsewhere.

As part of his school's Tech Ed woodshop club, Tang, also of Dormont, built Adirondack chairs and donated them to the Red Cross for Superstorm Sandy victims. He also has built chairs for the Dormont swimming pool.

The Madrishins, of Ross, have volunteered at Vincentian Personal Care home for 11 years.

“I don't look at it as volunteering anymore. They're like our family,” Anna Madrishin said of Vincentian's residents. The twins also help at Irish dance competitions and traveled to Costa Rica last year to clean a beach and repair a school.

Maria works with her church and has participated in several mission trips. She is a member of Bring a Smile to the Service, a group of Bethel Park students that writes letters and sends packages to military service members stationed overseas.

“It makes me feel so much better about helping the community,” she said of her volunteerism.

Other students who were in the top 10 percent of applicants for the Spirit of Community Awards, winning Presidential Awards are Ashley Aiello of Bethel Park; Ella Horner of Gibsonia in Butler County; Justine Keene of Parker; and Casey Kirwan of Peters.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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