Olivia Pollack began volunteering when she was 5 years old.

The 16-year-old New Albany resident's introduction to service began when her mother, Leslie Cash, encouraged Pollack and her siblings -- Madeline Pollack, 22, and Tommy Pollack, 20 -- to collect canned goods throughout the community for area food pantries.

Cash said she believes it's important for children to recognize the concept of being part of a broader community.

"I think that enriches the kids, too," she said.

Now a junior at New Albany High School, Pollack has continued to volunteer in her community. On Aug. 22, she received a Congressional Award from U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) for her work.

The award is given to people between the ages of 13 1/2 and 24, according to the award's website. Recognition is based on participants' activities in four areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition-exploration.

As participants meet their goals in the program areas, they are awarded bronze, silver and gold Congressional Award certificates and bronze, silver and gold Congressional Award medals, based on their respective levels.

In Pollack's case, she began participating in the program the summer before her freshman year in high school. She already had earned the certificates, and Aug. 22 was awarded the bronze and silver medals.

Qualification for the various achievement levels in the program is based on the number of hours spent volunteering each month, Pollack said. Next March, she said, she plans to submit her paperwork showing 12 months of work toward the gold medal.

Pollack said earning the bronze and silver medals made her feel as if she were achieving a goal she had been working toward.

"It was really gratifying," she said.

Participating in the program, Pollack said, gives her activities structure. In 2018, for example, she participated in a program at Nationwide Children's Hospital about human health and disease in order to satisfy the personal development component of the bronze Congressional Award.

Like her mother, she said her early introduction to service helped her see how important it is to give back to her community.

She still volunteers for the New Albany Symphony, something she began doing at age 8. As a student at New Albany Middle School, she worked to get New Albany-Plain Local School District students involved in Honor Ride Ohio, held annually in New Albany.

A self-paced, noncompetitive bike ride, Honor Ride raises funds for programs that help veterans and first responders.

As a high school freshman, Pollack became involved with the school's chapter of Girl Up, a United Nations Initiative, after helping out with the club's annual event, Beyond the Chains, a fashion event held during the school's Peace Week to help spread awareness about global human trafficking.

Pollack is now co-president of the Girl Up chapter with fellow NAHS junior Meghana Karthic.

This summer, Pollack attended Girl Up's international summit in Washington, D.C., where she met young women her age from throughout the world who talked about the impact the club was having on their own communities.

"That really inspired me," she said.

One young woman from Uganda talked about how the club's efforts in her community focused on making education for girls less stigmatized, Pollack said. Many girls there don't want to go to school past middle school age, she said.

"I love my education," she said. "... I learn new things every day."

Recently, Pollack hosted a women's empowerment brunch in New Albany to raise money to fund education for female students in Uganda. She raised more than $500, enough to send about 10 students to school for a year, she said.

Pollack already is planning to either join or start a Girl Up club when she goes to college, and said she will continue her volunteerism wherever she lives.

In the meantime, her goal for next summer is to bring Kode with Klossy to Columbus. The free coding camp was begun by model Karlie Kloss for girls ages 13 to 18. Pollack attended a camp this summer in Philadelphia.

"I want to bring Kode with Klossy to Columbus because it would empower girls, build their confidence and get more girls with strong coding skills," Pollack said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah