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Teen Buddy Bench Inventor Awarded Founder’s “See The Girl”

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is pleased to announce that Sammie Vance, a 9th grade student at Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana is the recipient of the See the Girl 2023 Founder’s Award.

The Policy Center is a non-profit headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida that leads the Justice for Girls Movement in Florida, working to prevent girls’ initial or deeper system involvement. Through an innovative combination of research, advocacy, best practices training, and direct service, the Policy Center is a bold voice to ensure the safety, fair treatment, and wellbeing of girls and young women. The Policy Center’s motto, “See the Girl”, is a call to the community to value girls’ voices, girls’ lived experiences, and a constant charge to see girls for their true potential, not their present circumstances.

Nominated by Stephanie Crandall, Sammie Vance is being honored for her work on recycling plastic caps into buddy benches for groups all over the U.S. and getting attention worldwide for her efforts. Ms. Crandall shares why she nominated Sammie for this award, “Sammie has inspired adults like me who are excited about our community’s future when we have leaders like her already addressing important issues such as connectedness, environmental stewardship, and mental health. Our city appreciates the change she has led and the bright future she is building, one bench at a time.”

Sammie works daily to spread awareness about being a friend and helping the planet. Whether she’s collecting bottle caps, speaking to groups, sending smiles, or interviewing guests for her podcast, she makes sure everyone knows they are important and that “you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid.” In her book, Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference, Sammie shares how she’s encouraging others through recycling, community giving, determination, bravery, helping, being herself, and celebrating. She wants to inspire the world one kid at a time.

The See the Girl Founder’s Award is in honor of Founder and President Emeritus, Dr. Lawanda Ravoira. This award recognizes girls or young women whose efforts champion social justice and systemic change for girls in her school, community, or state. Dr. Ravoira says of Sammie’s efforts, “Sammie embodies the motto “See the Girl”. She has created a safe space for connecting with others, a space where everyone feels important, and no one feels alone or invisible. Sammie is an inspiring role model and her commitment to making a difference is a powerful message to the world.”

The award was formally announced at the Policy Center’s 10th Year Anniversary Gala on November 9, 2023, in Jacksonville, Florida. Since Sammie is in school and was unable to attend the formal ceremony in Jacksonville, Dr. Ravoira along with Stephanie Crandall shared the news with Sammie during a visit to her first “buddy bench” on October 27, 2023, at Haley Elementary School, 2201 Maplecrest Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is a bold leader in the juvenile justice reform movement for girls. We use an innovative combination of advocacy, research and best practices, and model programming to improve girls’ safety and fair treatment. Their holistic, girl-centered approach is designed to disrupt the root causes of justice system involvement, reform harmful policies and practices, and advance the rights of girls. We must all strive to see every girl for who they are and who they can become—not their present circumstances.

Founded in 2013, the Policy Center to date has served more than 4,000 girls and trained more than 3,000 girl-serving professionals, released 27 independent reports, and advocated for the passage of 5 Florida laws that improve the safety, fair treatment, and wellbeing of girls and young women. Learn more at seethegirl.org.

The Waynedale News Staff
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