A Point Pleasant Beach High School student was awarded $500 from the 9/12 Generation Project, an educational project that teaches students nationwide about the importance of service and volunteering.
Brianna LaGuardia, 17, was one of hundreds of applicants who applied for the grant and was recognized because of her work with the homeless in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey.
Grant applicants were asked to fill out a series of questions about why they wanted to volunteer and how they would use the money if selected. A panel from the 9/12 Generation Project then graded each applicant. But what was not written in her application is what makes the teen’s work so extraordinary. LaGuardia’s family also lost their home to Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. Despite her loss, the Point Pleasant Beach High School Junior has continued to work at the Saint Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Lavallette, New Jersey.
“I see people who lost everything to Sandy. Some families walk from Seaside Heights to Lavallette to get some food,” LaGuardia explains through tears. “So many people have nothing. Some walk in shorts in the cold. At least my family has a place to live. I just feel so bad that so many people are still homeless.”
Sadly, nearly 40 percent of the students at her high school – which draws from Bayhead, Lavallette and Point Pleasant – lost homes to Sandy..
“It has been a difficult year but moments like this are just so wonderful,” said Maryann LaGuardia, who was present during the check presentation at the school. “Brianna did everything herself. She got the application and filled out everything and never asked for help. I’m just so proud.”
Principal Terri King says she is grateful to the 9/12 Generation Project for recognizing Brianna and thankful that the Hovnanian Foundation donated the project to her school. The 9/12 Generation Project consists of a documentary film, teacher’s guide, online resources and service-learning projects.
“The 9/12 Generation Project has taught my students to experience volunteering and how it affects their community,” King explains. “It focuses on September 12, 2001 – the day after the terror attacks – to show how volunteers helped survivors heal. It’s an incredible project.”
Last year, the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation provided a free 9/12 Generation Project to all high schools in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Alexandra Polanco is a teacher advisor at the high school who says she is proud to see one of her students take a leadership role and be so proactive.
LaGuardia says she plans to purchase pots and pans and other cooking utensils and distribute them to the homeless so they can make a warm meal when they get home.
For more information about the 9/12 Generation Project, go to www.912generationproject.org