Cullen Corr, a sophomore at the Episcopal School of Dallas, has been actively involved in volunteering at homeless shelters since he was a child. In seventh grade, Corr started volunteering at Family Gateway with his mother. After getting to know the organization, he noticed there was a playroom for young children, and a separate room for the adults, but no designated room where the teenagers could spend their free time.
Not one to sit idly by, Corr took matters into his own hands and began forming a plan to gather funding and build a room for his peers.
“As a teen, I know how important it is to have your own space and interact with students your own age,” Corr explained. “I met with executives at Family Gateway and got their permission to collect funds to build a Teen Room.”
Through car washes and asking local businesses for donations, Corr reached his goal and recruited a group of friends to help him clear out an old donation room and paint and spackle the walls and ceiling to make it the organization’s new Teen Room.
“I have seen the teenagers we helped come out of their shells and laugh and smile,” Corr said. “I have seen their confidence grow, and learned how imperative it is for children to be socially accepted and treated equally by their peers.”
As a result of his efforts, Corr was honored with a bronze medallion as part of the Prudential Financial Spirit of Community Awards program. Given to just 12 students in Texas, the award recognizes individuals who have dedicated their time and effort to improving the lives of others.
During chapel on Wednesday, April 3, Karen Gray, the leader of the Special Needs Division of the Greater Southwest Financial Group at Prudential, presented Corr with his medal and commended him for his “commitment and compassion for others.”
A year after he started volunteering with the organization, Corr started Kids Helping Kids (KHK), a 501c(3) organization dedicated to providing positive social interactions and educational support to underprivileged children. Since the organization was founded in 2011, Corr has recruited hundreds of volunteers from nine Dallas-area independent schools and Highland Park High School to teach, tutor, and mentor the children.
After giving a speech in Middle School chapel about his success with the Teen Room, Corr’s classmates started helping out on “Second Saturdays.” On these days, ESD students lead art projects, play games, or watch movies with the organization’s teenagers. Today, hundreds of volunteers donate their time and effort to Family Gateway and offer tutoring and fundraising opportunities for the teens and their families.
Last spring, KHK held a 5K called the “KH5K” to raise money for a van to transport children to different activities around the city. Corr hopes this year’s race, to be held on Saturday, May 3 on the Katy Trail, will help KHK reach the amount needed to purchase the van.
“Not only are we helping to better other kids’ lives,” Corr explained. “But our interactions with these kids help us become more compassionate, respectful, and appreciative.”
Created in 1995 by Prudential, and in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program recognizes students for outstanding community service efforts at the local, state, and national level. In 19 years, more than 100,000 middle and high school-aged students have been recognized for their efforts.
To become eligible for the award, students must fill out an application detailing their volunteer experience. Thousands of applications are then reviewed and narrowed down to a pool of 10 National Honorees who are announced at a special ceremony in Washington D.C. in May.