Local high school student honored with prestigious national award

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - Each year, Prudential, a national youth awards program, honors teen volunteers who make a difference in their community. One of those teens is from right here in the Valley.

Recently awarded a top state honoree by the nation's largest youth volunteer awards program, Sunnyslope high school senior Nathan Simmons has gone above and beyond what defines an outstanding volunteer service in the community.

"My brother was the first one that said he wanted to do something," Simmons said. "And then we started working together and figuring out what we could do."

The teen and his brother are founding board members of their own non-profit, "The Re-pack Project," a youth volunteer organization that collects thousands of unwanted school supplies, toys, and shoes - then donates them to kids in need in other countries.

"Back in 2012, we returned from South Africa and we visited schools in a small town and they were writing on newspapers with half broken pencils," Simmons said. "Everything we get is donated. We put out big collection boxes next to trash cans every year instead of throwing away supplies. It's like we saw it happening way too often at our schools, they get put in the collection boxes."

Over the last five years, kids in countries like South Africa, Peru, Fiji, Thailand, and Mexico have been delivered "Re-pack Projects" boxes. The boxes are stocked with pencils, folders, scissors, and backpacks for children in underprivileged schools.

Simmons and the volunteers also collect enough supplies to donate to children within the state - school supplies and even toys and shoes.

Simmons says receiving such a prestigious honor like the Prudential Spirit of Community Award motivates the non-profit to collect and give back even more this year.

"This is just one example of how amazing it is when people, especially young people, come together and see a problem and say, 'Let's get this done.'"