Fifth Grade Receives Disney Friends for Change Grant for Global Youth Service Day

The fifth grade class at Mount Madonna School (MMS) was recently awarded a Disney Friends for Change Youth Grant through Youth Service America (YSA). The grant will support the students in leading a community service project for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), and was awarded in conjunction with their in-depth class environmental project, ‘Don’t Be A Nurdle, Save the Sea Turtle.’ YSA awards grants to children and teens to support their leading projects that make a positive, lasting change in the world. 
Ten-year-old Kira Kaplan wrote and submitted the grant application last fall on behalf of her class; and the students were recently notified that they’ve been awarded $1,000 towards their project expenses, including production of an educational film (written, filmed, edited and produced by the students) and supporting their creation of monofilament fishing line canisters. The canisters will be distributed to fisherman and used for collecting waste fishing line, keeping it from becoming a biohazard in the marine ecosystem.
‘Our project has many ways of making a difference in our school, our community, in the state and in the world,’ said Kaplan. ‘We are educating people about how their everyday choices make a difference in turtle survival. Knowing how your seafood is caught can reduce ‘bycatch’ of turtles. We want people to know that when you buy and use a single-use item or something with a lot of packaging, you are adding to the plastic in the ocean.’
In the addition to their educational and outreach efforts, the students are also engaged in service activities. They are planning and coordinating a clean-up of their school campus on April 11, in honor of GYSD. The fifth graders will be assisted by MMS high school students for their campus clean-up. Over the past couple months the students also participated in clean-ups at two local Santa Cruz County beaches. 
‘Sea turtles are a keystone species and a crucial part of the ocean ecosystem,’ commented Kaplan. ‘If these turtles were to become extinct, then the species they eat will overpopulate. Sea turtles keep our ocean in balance, and by helping them, you’re helping us, too. Turtle species are like living dinosaurs, and have survived for millions of years. It’s amazing that they can migrate more than 3,000 miles in a single year — or dive hundreds of feet deep, even though they are air breathing animals.’
Kaplan and the MMS fifth grade class join millions of other young people around the world to celebrate GYSD, April 11 to 13, 2014. Now in its 26th year, GYSD recognizes the positive impact that young people have on their communities 365 days a year. As the largest service event in the world, GYSD is celebrated in more than 135 countries and all 50 United States.
‘Kira Kaplan is a true Friend for Change,’ said Steven A. Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. ‘She and her classmates are leading an amazing project to help sea turtles! We are so proud of the students’ great work and how it will help the community. ‘ 

Youth Service America (YSA) improves communities by increasing the number and diversity of young people, ages 5 to 25, serving in substantive roles. Through campaigns, grant programs, resource development and training opportunities, YSA promotes a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement. As a campaign of YSA and the largest service event in the world, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through service. GYSD 2013 will be held April 11-13 in more than 135 countries on six continents. For more information, visit and 

Disney Friends for Change is a multi-platform initiative that inspires kids and families to join together and make a positive impact on their world by helping people, communities and the planet.  And while these activities may vary, they are united by an overarching emphasis on fostering creativity, conservation and compassion. Through PSAs on-air and online action kits, the program aims to provide useful resources to encourage kids to make small changes that add up to big differences. Friends for Change, along with YSA, provide grants to support youth-service projects in communities around the world. Friends for Change currently has almost five million actions taking place from kids in 33 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, China and the United States.
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications, [email protected]
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.