Olathe teen gets volunteer service honor

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Doing good -- a whole lot of good -- has an Olathe teenager getting one of the nation's highest honors for community service by young people. Cassie Wang goes to Washington, D.C. next month for a ceremony to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

She is an academic powerhouse, a top scholar in the senior class at Olathe Northwest High School. By any measure -- academics, performing arts, leadership, athletics or service, Cassie Wang is wrapping up a stunningly successful high school career.

"Just a tremendous young lady," says Olathe Northwest High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Jay Novacek. "One of those kids that is truly one of a kind. There's no other way (to describe her.) She is just something else." And this fall, Cassie will take all her talents and abilities to Harvard University.

"I think that will really set off the learning curve and really be able to help me function at my very highest capacity," Cassie said.

Cassie's been functioning at an astonishingly high capacity for years already. She's among the Kansas City region's most honored high school golfers and nationally ranked.

"Everything takes hard work and you really have to stay driven and be passionate about what you are doing to be successful," says Cassie.

Golf became Cassie's pathway to an escalating life of volunteer service. A driving trip to a youth tournament two years ago took her through Joplin, Mo., shortly after the monster tornado devastated the city.

"I couldn't shake off the feeling the rest of the tournament," says Cassie. "I don't remember anything about the tournament. All I was thinking about was Joplin."

Cassie quickly put together Birdies for Charity, a fundraising projects centering on her golf that generated big money for Joplin relief efforts. Eager to do more, she created a student-run not-for-profit organization, Youth Hope Fund, to engage other young people in community service. They've continued to help Joplin and other disaster areas and provide scholarships and other aid for needy children in the U.S. and abroad.

"One lone 17-year-old girl like me may not be able to make that big an impact," says Cassie, "but I think the more 17 year olds that you can get into the process that you can truly make a mind-blowing impact."

"That's just who she is," says Novacek. "She's not just someone who talks about doing something. She's hands-on. She's involved. And she's just going to keep going until she can help as many people as she can. She's tremendous."

Cassie's phenomenal record of accomplishments and involvement in community service now has her in a very bright spotlight. She's receiving one of the nation's top honors for young people who do good works. Cassie is the Kansas state winner of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, a dramatic exclamation point to her teenage years of doing good and a big boost to keep at it and bring others along with her.

"I hope that by doing all of this those people who are getting help will know they are not forgotten," says Cassie. "And also I hope that the people around us who hear the things we are doing will be inspired to get involved, too."

Cassie also has chaired and directed several blood drives at Olathe Northwest. They are huge -- some of the most successful school-based blood drives in the nation. The next one is coming up next week, Thursday, May 2nd, from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Cassie says the public is encouraged to come to Northwest to join students and faculty in donating. Go to www.onwravens.net/blood for information and to schedule a time to donate.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 5 p.m.

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