ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – Neha Devineni, 18, is encouraging young people - no matter their age - to step up and help each other out.
Devineni's nonprofit - ASA or "Aspire, Serve, Achieve" connects kids throughout the country to service projects that help underprivileged kids in the areas of education, nutrition and sanitation.
"The goal of it is honestly to get more children inspired,” said Devineni. “For children to see that 'ok, I'm not too young' - age is not a barrier, gender is not a barrier, no stereotype is a barrier for me to go and make an effective change in another kid's life.”
Devineni's commitment to service was recently recognized by the financial management corporation, Prudential.
The company recently awarded her $7,500 through its Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program which honors middle and high school students for outstanding service.
The award money will go toward COVID-19 relief efforts for kids, Devineni said.
In 1995, Prudential partnered with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to create the award program, which is one of the largest youth volunteer recognition programs in the country. More than 140,000 young people have received the honor - including youth community service leaders internationally in Japan, Taiwan and Brazil.
Devineni was among 102 youth recipients this year.
"I was very honored by it. The cohort is so beautiful. The types of students and the types of work they’re doing - it's amazing," she said. "I think it just inspires everyone within the network to do more and to help each other out."
Devineni started ASA three years ago, after witnessing impoverished children during a family trip to India.
She said the haunting images made her realize, she didn't need to wait for adults to act.
"This is a children's issue. This is an issue affecting children like no other, and I wanted children to be the ones to help solve it, or at least address it," she said.
Today, ASA has more than 100 ambassadors throughout the country and overseas - including Texas, Michigan and India.
Ambassadors create and launch projects on the ASA website, and encourage other kids to participate and make a difference.
"What they were signing on was essentially a commitment to help children and a commitment to serve as leaders within the lives of other underprivileged children," she said.
Projects have included raising money to help a teenager caring for her younger siblings avoid being sent to foster homes and paying for the funeral expenses of a teen’s mother who died unexpectedly.
"We get direct contact with the children we're helping. And we're also not feeding through any other form of organization," said Devineni. "It's direct children-to-children assistance."
Devineni recently graduated from Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs. She plans to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham this fall, where she will participate in the school's eight-year medical program.