RHS senior earns President’s Volunteer Service Award

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Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 12:00 am

All Jonathan Bloyd wanted to do was help out.

Sure, his high school graduation required he complete community service hours, sure it was only natural to expect to serve for his church.

But the Ralston High School senior saw something more to be found in his service — something he still can’t quite define, especially now that he has been named one of about 300 nationwide recipients of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a program sponsored by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and bestowed by President Barack Obama.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Bloyd, who is well on his way to completing more than 200 hours of community service for his high school career. “Community service is how you participate in the world around you, how you learn about the community and make it a better place.”

In his journey to do just that, Bloyd has helped feed the hungry, retrofit a house for an elderly couple in Indiana and coached youth football, among other endeavors.

Sometimes he helps his church, Messiah Lutheran in Ralston, sometimes he helps RHS and sometimes he’s just doing it for the joy he feels in service.

“I want to always try to make the world a better place,” he said. “I feel great helping people and seeing a different side of the community we live in.”

Bloyd said he turned in the requisite 40 hours of community service for RHS graduation long ago and he doesn’t really keep track of how many hours he’s completed since then, but guessed it extended into the 200-hour realm.

He was also unsure of who it was that nominated him for the President’s Award.

Turns out it was RHS guidance counselor Mike Burling, who has witnessed Bloyd’s selflessness for some time and felt he deserved recognition for it.

“He is the kind of student you love to have in your school,” Burling said. “He will help out anyone and is always smiling.”

With Messiah, Bloyd has visited New Orleans, where, even years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City, his church youth group found plenty of cleanup work to do. Last summer, the group traveled to Indiana and installed wheelchair access at the home of an elderly couple.

“That was an interesting experience,” Bloyd said. “We really got a chance to visit with them. The woman we helped had been a victim of abuse as a child and she told us her story. Just being able to listen to that, we felt like we became very good friends with her.”

The church group also had to navigate some code issues with the retrofit and also problems posed by utility lines running in the vicinity of the ramp.

“We had to change our design about five times,” Bloyd said.

“And they almost called in someone else to finish up, but we wanted the satisfaction of seeing it done and seeing them go down the ramp in their wheelchairs.”

This summer, Bloyd will take part in Messiah’s youth service camp trip to Racine, Wis.

Bloyd’s favorite service work so far has been the coaching he’s done with the Ralston Junior Rams football program. He started out low on the totem in the program, but by last season, was serving as an assistant coach with the youth team.

After being nominated for the award, Bloyd wrote a series of essays about his service. Last month, he was informed by a selection committee of his honor.

Bloyd is one of six people from Nebraska who will be honored.

Four honorees will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with Obama.

While Bloyd will not be among those four, he said he was just proud for the recognition and has no plans to stop his service.

“I’m proud of it,” he said. “I’m just glad I could help the community and I had a lot of fun doing it.”

And the service will continue for Bloyd.

After high school, he plans on attending the University of North Dakota with the career goal of becoming a physical therapist.

“It’s just another way I can help people,” he said.

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