Irmo Middle School sixth grade student Kaliyah Hicks has been honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award. She has been recognized for volunteering with Project Au-Some and working with special needs students. She helped co-found Project Au-Some at Harbison West Elementary School and went on to initiate the program at Irmo Middle School once she entered sixth grade.

“I love helping special needs students, I have a special place in my heart for them,” said Hicks. “I started Project Au-Some at Irmo Middle because we were working on it last year and I didn’t want to stop.”

Project Au-Some started at Harbison West Elementary when fifth-grade students in Brenna Lamprey’s class were visited by preschool teacher, Beth Reilly, who specializes in working with students with developmental delays. She read a book about autism and every member of the class volunteered their recess to spend time with the preschoolers. From there, the project grew and Lamprey’s students began planning and teaching lessons focused on specific learning goals such as fine motor skills, social skills, and developmentally appropriate academic skills.

“Kaliyah was the one that quickly became invested in my special needs students and she wanted to start coming more and asking how she could help more,” Reilly said. “It was amazing to watch her and how she grew as a leader.”

Hicks brought Project Au-Some to Irmo Middle School with the help of sixth-grade science teacher Regan Moore. Students spend lunchtime and recess each week with special needs students. They’ve worked on lesson plans, made sensory bottles, and are currently writing a school-wide lesson to help support World Down Syndrome Day. Moore nominated Hicks for the award.

“Kaliyah is a driven young lady. Her determination and effort have resulted in Project Au-Some being carried over to Irmo Middle School,” Moore said. “She is dedicated to making students more aware of people with exceptionalities and promoting awareness for the needs of all. We are so proud to have her as part of our school crew.”

Hicks was surprised with the award during a community meeting at Irmo Middle with all her sixth-grade peers in attendance. Moore, Lamprey, Reilly and Hicks’ mother Shirlina were there as part of the surprise.

“I’m very proud of her,” Shirlina said. “She loves helping. Kaliyah has a heart for special needs kids, it touches her a whole lot.”

The President’s Volunteer Service Award honors individuals who have achieved sustained service over a 12-month period. Volunteers receive a certificate and a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States. Principal Robert Jackson was thrilled to present the award to Hicks.

“We believe in service and compassion at Irmo Middle and we encourage students to get involved in their community and get behind a cause that makes all of us better as a community,” said Jackson. “It’s an honor to have students who are being recognized not only at a local level but at a national level for the tremendous work that they do in the community. I’m very proud of Kaliyah and her commitment to making her community a better place.”