Middleton, Racine students named Wisconsin’s Top Youth Volunteers of 2021


MIDDLETON, Wis. — Two Wisconsin students have been recognized in a national program for their volunteer work.

Seventeen-year-old Daphne Wu, a junior at Middleton High School and 10-year-old Ava Pinnow, a fifth-grader at West Ridge Elementary in Racine, were both recognized as one of Wisconsin’s Top Youth Volunteers of 2021.

Wu started an environmental club at her school in 2018 to raise awareness of environmental issues and to take on projects to recycle materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Wu started researching climate change, plastic pollution and animal extinction as a freshman.

“I felt there was something I could and should do, but I knew that it would not be enough for me to stand alone,” Wu said.

Wu started the Green Team club at her school. Her environmental science teacher was brought on as the club adviser. Wu later recruited students through videos that aired during school announcements. So far, the club has collected hundreds of plastic bags to donate to a local food pantry, coordinated a drive to collect and recycle used writing tools and razors, hosted sustainability activities for 120 students at an elementary school, delivered presentations on climate change to her school and more. She is calling on her school district to rely solely only renewable energy by 2030. The Green Team is now one of the largest student organizations at her school with more than 50 members.

Pinnow makes cards and crafts, writes letters and draws pictures for senior citizens living in nursing and retirement homes to help curb feelings of loneliness during the pandemic.

“I have so much art in my house, I wanted to share it with others,” she said.

One of Pinnow’s family members who works with seniors in a residential care facility told Pinnow she could share her art with them to help make a difference. Pinnow took matters into her own hands from that point on.

“My volunteer activity made lots of people happy,” Pinnow said. “I love to see people happy.”

Pinnow thinks she has given art to 50 senior residents.

To learn more about their efforts, click here.