A picture of Daphne Wu, a female MCPASD student, wearing a medal around her neck.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021 - 1:15 pm 

MHS junior Daphne Wu is one of two Wisconsin honorees to be selected as the top high school youth volunteer as part of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

"I'm incredibly excited to be receiving this award and it came as a complete surprise to me and my parents. I am grateful for Mrs. (Leah) Williams, Mrs. (Peg) Shoemaker, Mrs. (Lori) Ames, and the Middleton Sustainability Committee for always supporting my sustainability endeavors in the school district and ultimately allowing me to win this recognition."

She is one of only 102 honorees across the United States. Wu also qualifies for the President's Volunteer Service Award. She will receive a $2,500 scholarship and will be recognized in a virtual celebration April 30-May 2. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are America's largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.

"We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your compassionate dedication to improving the lives of others,'' Prudential Financial chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey said in a statement. "The kind of vision and commitment you have demonstrated is extremely important to the future of our neighborhoods, cities and nation. Young volunteers such as yourself are inspiring examples to all of us. You are the brightest hopes for a better tomorrow.''

The other state honoree is Ava Pinnow, 10, of Racine.

Wu started an environmental club at MHS in 2018 to raise awareness of environmental issues and solutions, and to undertake projects to recycle materials that otherwise end up in landfills. When she was a freshman, Wu also began researching environmental issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and animal extinction, and found it all to be heartbreaking.

“I felt there was something I could and should do,” she said, “but I knew that it would not be enough for me to stand alone.”

The MHS Green Team now has more than 50 members and has collected hundreds of plastic bags to donate to a local food pantry, coordinated a drive to collect and recycle used-up writing instruments and razors, and visited an elementary school to conduct interactive sustainability activities for 120 younger students. On Earth Day 2020, Wu delivered a 30-minute presentation on climate change to more than 1,000 students and staff members at MHS. She is also encouraging her school district to rely 100 percent on renewable energy by 2030.

Wu also is a member of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee and the City of Middleton's Sustainability Committee and works at the city's Recycling Center. She also has been featured on the Environmental Education in Wisconsin website.

"She is a rock star and what she does is amazing,'' said Deb Weitzel, a retired MHS science teacher who serves on the Sustainability Committee with Wu.

Visit the Prudential Community of Spirt Awards website to learn more.