Decorah High School student Lydia Dawley frequently is invited to speak on behalf of persons with disabilties. (Submitted photo)
Decorah High School student Lydia Dawley frequently is invited to speak on behalf of persons with disabilties. (Submitted photo)
Lydia Dawley, a sophomore at Decorah High School, has been honored for her volunteer service with the President's Volunteer Service award.

The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was presented by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of President Barack Obama.

The daughter of Nathan and Jacque Dawley of Decorah, Lydia suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She dreams of someday being a lead advocate for persons with disabilities.

"Making your voice heard is only one part. The wheelchair doesn't define me. It means you have to do things differently, not that you can't do things," said Lydia in a recent interview with Decorah Newspapers.

Dawley participated in the Spirit of Community program this year as a representative of Decorah High School.

"Lydia earned her award by traveling and speaking at colleges and political forums in Iowa and Nebraska to advocate for people with disabilities. This included speaking with Congressman Tom Latham and Senator Tom Harkin," said Jacque.

"We are very proud of Lydia's work to share her message related to the challenges individuals with disabilities face on a daily basis. She has been and will continue to be a very positive ambassador with a very special message," said DHS Principal Kim Sheppard, adding Lydia will be formally recognized at the DHS Student Awards program that is held in May.

Sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NAASP), the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program recognizes young people across America for outstanding community service activities. More than 370,000 young people across America have been considered for these awards since the program began in 1995.

"The recipients of these awards vividly demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial.

"In recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer service activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community."

"Demonstrating civic responsibility through community volunteerism is an important part of life," said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. "These Honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate."