WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield High School freshman Alexandra Jackman recently received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award along with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her outstanding commitment and volunteer work for autism awareness.
WHS Principal Peter Renwick initially nominated Jackman for the award, which he presented to her on February 19. Jackman was part of the top 10 percent of recipients for the state of New Jersey. In response to be recognized for her work Jackman states,
“While of course it is so nice receiving awards, it means so much more to me knowing that I helped people with special needs be understood just a little bit more,” said Jackman.
The main part of Jackman’s work and recognition has been for a video she created last year in an attempt to bring awareness about autism to her peers. Watch it below:
According to Jackman, the video has been a tool to help educate others. Schools in Westfield and all over the nation have incorporated her video in different presentations and training programs. Recently, her YouTube video has been accepted to the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
“The number of people who have watched and commented on it is more than I had ever hoped,” said Jackman. “I have received such heartfelt, touching messages from educators, doctors, families who are impacted by autism and people who have autism and other special needs.”
Jackman has worked with organizations and programs such as The Friendship Circle, Temple Emanu-El’s Ma’Ayan program, the Westfield Area Y, Sensory Theater Programs and Autism Family Times.
According to Claudette Bardwill, founder and president of Autism Family Times, Jackman “has a natural way of making our special needs teens feel welcome and included.” Bardwill said that what enables Jackman to be such a devoted and hardworking volunteer is simply her compassion.
In the past year, Jackman has also received a Youth in Action Award from the ARC of NJ and a Proclamation from the Union County Freeholders.
On her volunteer experience, Jackman has learned that “it’s easier than I thought to have your voice heard. Letting people know about something you feel strongly about can have an impact, and maybe even positively affect a few more people than you expected.”