Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 4, 2010

Seven second-grade Brownies from St. Jude the Apostle School in Sandy Springs recently earned the Family of God Award.

The awards were blessed and given to the girls by Father Dan Ketter and Deacon Jim Tramonte at a Scouting Sunday Mass Feb. 7.

The Family of God is the first award that can be earned by Catholic girls participating in the Girl Scout program. It is an official award recognition program by the church.

The Family of God program is a workbook that the girls complete with their families during three or four months. The Brownies were required to do 18 activities.

Andrew Vassil, an eighth-grader at Queen of Angels School in Roswell, was selected as the middle school representative from Georgia for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

Vassil, 14, has been raising money and giving speeches for the past six years to support childhood cancer research and patient care.

The award honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Prudential Financial conducts the program in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The other recipient was MacKenzie Bearup, 16, of Alpharetta.

At the age of 6 and in kindergarten, Vassil was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was treated at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn., and it saved his life, he says. The tumor was inoperable, so the Woodstock resident lives with it.

Since then, Vassil has not been shy telling his story to raise awareness of the hospital. You can find him at golf tournaments, country club dinners, radio station phone-a-thons, any place people can be found raising money for the cause.

He has expanded his activities to support the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. He spends many hours writing and practicing speeches, telling people about the importance of cancer research.

Vassil is also a confidante for peers diagnosed with cancer.

“I know so many people who have been through the horrors of childhood cancer. I want to help find cures so other kids don’t have to experience what I did,” he said.

School principal Kathryn Wood praised Vassil’s commitment.

“He is an awesome young man and deserves this award,” she said.

The state honorees will receive $1,000, a silver medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C., for recognition events.

Kudos to an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Victory School in Tyrone, which held its annual Middle School Spelling Bee in January.

Jessica Shurman placed first. Jessica then competed in the Archdiocese of Atlanta Spelling Bee at Immaculate Heart of Mary School on Feb. 2, where she placed second. Jessica also competed in the Georgia Independent School Association Spelling Bee on Feb. 11 at Woodward Academy and placed in the top 10. She was to compete in Macon at the end of February.

Young students recently got a taste of running a business when the third-grade Test Marketing Mall opened its doors at Notre Dame Academy. The Duluth school’s cafeteria-turned-shopping mall was humming. “Rainbow Bucks” swapped hands as the youngsters sold everything from edible goodies to Webkins accessories to paper airplanes.

The project for third-graders at the Marist-sponsored independent Catholic school focused on establishing an economy, working jobs around the classroom for their currency, Rainbow Bucks, and keeping track of their money in checkbooks. The students learned to form partnerships, wrote advertising jingles and studied costs and profits.

Third-grade teacher Patti Phillips said the school’s curriculum encourages innovative lesson plans.

“The sky was our only limit,” she said.