Lanier student Traeshaun Hiley chosen as youth ambassador


JANS – Youth Service America (YSA) and Festival of Children Foundation has announced that Traeshaun Hiley, 17, will represent Mississippi as one of 51 National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassadors. Hiley will receive funding and training to lead a campaign that will assist students and parents in finding out if they carry the Sickle Cell trait or have the disease. Hiley’s work began this month, which is National Child Awareness Month as well as National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. He will travel to Washington, D.C. for leadership training and a networking event on Capitol Hill. When he returns home, he will launch his campaign “Know your Sickle Cell Status”.

“I feel that if more teens are aware of their status they will be able to teach the community how to be aware of the side effects,” says Hiley. “I was born with Sickle Cell Disease and it has been a struggle to fight this battle. I want to educate and make more people aware about how to conquer this disease. My mother has always encouraged me to stay positive and focus on the bigger picture of life.” Now in its fifth year, National Child Awareness Month is an initiative spearheaded by the Festival of Children Foundation to raise awareness about issues affecting children and to encourage the nation’s youth to take action. Senate Resolution 522, sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), officially designates September 2012 as National Child Awareness Month. The National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador program is a newly created initiative of YSA and Festival of Children Foundation.

The 51 Youth Ambassadors will work in their communities, and form a collective network to raise awareness around issues important to young people. Youth Ambassadors receive a national-level platform for their cause; a $1,000 grant to develop a service project in his or her home state; ongoing training, project and technical assistance support; and networking opportunities with other Youth Ambassadors across the country. Hiley was selected through a competitive application process, and chosen based on the quality of his project proposal and its potential to create substantive, large-scale change on behalf of young people in Mississippi. He was nominated for the honor by Dr. Martha Alexander, project manager for Operation Shoestring’s Youth Employment Program (YEP), who saw in Hiley an enthusiasm for service and making a difference in his community and among his peers.

Operation Shoestring’s after-school job skills and leadership training in the YEP helped Hiley and his peers gain confidence and develop a work ethic that provided professional summer employment, a career mentor, and scholarship support for college. “As a National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador, Traeshaun has a unique opportunity to serve as a leader of today,” said Steven A. Culbertson, President and CEO of YSA, a leader in the youth service movement. “YSA and Festival of Children Foundation look forward to supporting Traeshaun as he works to create positive change in the lives of young people in Mississippi.” Traeshaun is the son of Shalonda Hiley.

He is a 17 year-old senior at Lanier High School in Jackson, MS. He is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Mr. LET II and III in ROTC and an Operation Shoestring’s Youth Employment Program. Hiley plans to attend Mississippi State University to major in Computer Engineering and minor in Culinary Arts. A complete list of all 51 Youth Ambassadors and their project plans is available at

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