Cuyahoga Falls teen wins national award for volunteer work

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St. Vincent-St. Mary High School junior Brianna Machuga will be traveling to Washingon D.C. to receive a national award in February. She was recently named the winner of the National Parks Service (NPS) George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service - Youth Award. Considered the most prestigious of the NPS awards, it recognizes volunteers for their hard work, vast skills, and contributions that lead to development of innovative projects and volunteer involvement.

Originally nominated by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to compete at the regional level, Brianna was chosen to represent the Midwest region - which encompasses 57 parks. Her nomination was then forwarded to the NPS Washington Office for consideration of the national youth volunteer award. Upon being named the 2012 winner, Brianna said, "To receive this award is absolutely amazing. I never dreamed I could be recognized on a national level. For me volunteering is just something with which I grew up, and something I intend to do for the rest of my life."

Brianna, 17 years old and the daughter of Cuyahoga Falls residents Brian and Pamela Machuga, began volunteering for the parks service at the age of 7. She has logged nearly 700 hours and continues to contribute her talents at many levels. Brianna volunteers as an actress, office assistant, and program assistant for youth and special event programs, which include the Underground Railroad and Polar Express. In 2011, she initiated the hats and coats campaign for the Polar Express collecting winter gear for area homeless shelters and delivered more than 140 coats and 300 hats, gloves, and scarves. The campaign is now an annual drive.

Respected by STVM faculty and students, Brianna is also an honor student. She balances her school time as a dancer in school productions, serves on the board of the International Thespian Society, the Spanish Club, and Students Against Drunk Drivers.

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