Andrea Malakar coordinates Hunger: Not Impossible and volunteers at camps and migrant summer school.

A Henley High School senior who coordinates a program to help food insecure students has been named 2020 Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year, the top award given by the United Way of the Klamath Basin for volunteerism.

Andrea Malakar, 18, has volunteered with Hunger: Not Impossible for the past three years, and since 2019, has served as coordinator, donating more than 300 hours to train student volunteers, raise funds, and coordinate efforts with the Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank and local educators.

Judges selected Malakar as the top volunteer from a pool of 31 nominees. The annual award ceremony and volunteer recognition event was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leroy Cabral, executive director of the local United Way, instead notified the winners.

“It is definitely a huge honor,” Malakar said, crediting her science and health teachers, Carly Fullerton and Bobbie Sue Britton, for making it possible. Fullerton and Britton are advisors for Hunger: Not Impossible.

“Watching them inspired me to get involved,” she said. “They taught me more than science and math. I was naive to the fact that kids were hungry in Klamath County. What they teach goes beyond the classroom.”

Hunger: Not Impossible was started by Henley High School students in 2017. Malakar has been involved since the project’s inception. She was nominated for the award by Britton, Fullerton and Henley High School Principal Jack Lee.

“Andrea Malakar is a complete package,” they write. “”Her compassion to help others and her desire to go unrecognized for her efforts set her apart from most people in this world. … A deeply ethical person with great integrity, she is responsible, dependable, present, and passionate every minute in everything she does.”

In the past two years, Hunger: Not Impossible has helped an estimated 150 students and their families by providing them meals prepared by local restaurants. The student who needs a meal uses an app to text one of the program’s volunteers. That volunteer orders and pays for the meal and then lets the student know when to pick it up.

The program, which usually operates during summer break, expanded this year to offer services over the winter holiday. Malakar said they decided to start up again after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and will continue through the summer. City and county school district educators who see a need recommend students to a committee, which selects the participants.

Working with Hunger: Not Impossible isn’t Malakar’s first experience with volunteering. She is a leadership intern for Camp Invention, a science program for grade-school students. She uses her bilingual skills as a volunteer with the school district’s migrant summer school, tutoring students and working in classrooms. As president of Henley’s National Honor Society, she has organized and participated in various community service projects.

She plans to attend college this fall to pursue a career in the science field. Last year, she was one of a handful of students and one of two from the West Coast selected to attend a two-week Joint Science Technology Institute program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. She is a certified CNA and will graduate high school this spring with 70 college credits.

Malakar credits her parents for teaching her about the importance of giving back.

“There is definitely need in the community,” she said. “I encourage everyone to get involved and volunteer. It’s an excellent way to learn about yourself, discover your potential, practice your skills, and feel good about helping others.”