SUSSEX — Ashley Craig has gone above and beyond.
The 18-year-old Wantage resident and High point Regional High School senior was selected as New Jersey's top high school youth volunteer for her creation of the Students Against Being Bullied program in 2012 and completion of more than 1,000 hours of community service over the past four years.
Craig is one of two state honorees to win the award, the other recipient being Howell Middle School South student Jayne McDevitt, 13. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, in its 19th year and conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes youth based on community service involvement.
SABB started with Craig being bullied in seventh grade by five older boys. A strong support group helped her through the experience, but in eighth grade, when a friend alerted her that he wanted to end his life — feeling he had no one else to turn to — because he was being bullied, Craig spoke up and, according to the young man, saved his life.
Craig created the program to raise bullying awareness and provide assistance, resources and helplines to victims of bullying.
“We’ve actually been trying to expand recently,” she said. “There is a chapter of SABB at High Point where we hold [meetings twice a month] after school to discuss bullying issues, and then there’s SABB, Inc. — a non-profit organization.”
Her mother, Jennifer Craig, said she is "amazingly proud" of her daugther.
“From the very beginning she said, ‘If I can help one, there’s a lot more out there.’ It always amazes me to watch her get up and speak in front of 1,000 people. She speaks from the heart.”
High Point Language Arts teacher Carolyn Acker is the SABB adviser and participates in the program’s meetings twice a month at the school.
"She's been an amazing help," Craig said.
Craig says, “She’s been an amazing help.”
As a state Honoree, Vraig will receive a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for a series of national recognition events from May 3-6.
“I honestly still cannot believe it. I asked Principal Tallamy about five times, ‘Is this real?’” Craig said.
During the Washington., D.C trip, 10 National Honorees — five high school and five middle school students — will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014 and receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies for their nominating schools or organizations and $5,000 grants for the charities of their choice. Craig is one of the 102 honorees being considered for these additional awards.
On top of that, all honorees will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from all parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.
Next year, Craig plans to major in psychology and make SABB, Inc. her full-time job
“Ashley Craig is a young woman of tremendous vision and passion,” Superintendent Scott Ripley said. “Her vision extends beyond the walls of High Point as she endeavors to impact the state and nation. She travels extensively throughout the country to speak against bullying. Few have the courage to respond to pain and life’s challenges in such a positive and meaningful way.”
Craig says the bulk of her public speaking has been targeted at adults: “My message to teachers is this: speaking as a student myself, we depend on you more than we say we do. Without parents and educators, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so thankful to BOE President Mr. Paul Derin, Mr. Tallamy and Mr. Ripley for all of their amazing support.”
In the past, Craig also has received the 2011 N.J. Mental Health Association Golden Bell Leadership Award, Certificate of Excellence from the Office of the Governor, Certificate of Recognition from the Senate and General Assembly, President’s Volunteer Service Award, John A. Wagner Jr. Leadership Award, 2012 Youth Leadership Award from the NJ-NY Fraternal Alliance and Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award.