Grace Berardino wins youth division honors at Klamath Country Volunteer of Year event

Henley High School student Grace Berardino didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop her and her fellow Key Club members from helping their community.

Berardino, a junior, has led the school’s community service club since her sophomore year. She is a member of the school’s Hunger Not Impossible program, and volunteers at the Klamath Lutheran Food Pantry, the Klamath County Library’s summer program, Sky Lakes Medical Center, and as a member of the United Way of the Klamath Basin’s Fund Distribution Team.

For her commitment to community service, the 17-year-old was honored this month as a youth division Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year finalist, winning the award from judges at the United Way’s annual event. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the annual banquet was canceled and winners were notified by mail. She is one of three youth finalist winners. Others are Daniel McVay and Saira Blevins of Klamath Union High School.

Henley teacher and Key Club advisor Linnae Salvati, who nominated Berardino for the award, pointed to her work with the school’s community service club as well as her ongoing efforts to reach out and find ways to help.

“She has been very active in extending our presence in the school and in the community,” Salvati said. “For a period, we had to temporarily suspend any school clubs and organizations. However, she did not want this to pause our work in the community. Therefore, she took it all upon herself to run the club, gather volunteers and reach out to organizations who may need to help to continue providing our hands and hours. She is always looking for areas of need in the community and then works diligently to meet those needs.”

Henley High Principal Jack Lee said he plans to honor Berardino in front of the student body later this spring.

“Grace is one of those people who does things because it’s the right thing to do, and she knows that people need help,” Lee said. “She is very deserving of this award.”

Berardino was surprised and honored to be recognized. She said she hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as she would like this past year because of the pandemic, but she has worked with her Key Club to do what she can.

“It’s been a challenge to get involved with COVID, but we’re starting to figure out how to best to serve the community during this time,” she said.

She didn’t start volunteering until her freshman year in high school when she joined the Key Club. Salvati helped her find projects and in her sophomore year, she became club president.

“I like that even if I’m doing something small, it is helpful to someone,” Berardino said. “It’s important to me.”

Her future plans include attending college. She wants to study economics and then attend law school. No matter where the future takes her, she will continue volunteering.

“Depending on what field I go into, I can probably carry my love for community service into my career,” she said.

Grace Berardino, a junior at Henley High School, was recognized as a finalist in the youth division in the United Way of the Klamath Basin’s 28th annual Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year awards.