Need help? She's there

Marleah Mullen doesn't think too much about working during lunch, after school or on weekends to spruce up her middle school.

She just does it.

"I enjoy it, and I like helping," said Marleah, 14. "Whenever somebody says they need some help, I try to be there."

That's why the eighth-grader at Pleasant Valley Middle School in Wichita was selected as one of the state's top youth volunteers for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Marleah will receive a $1,000 award, which she plans to save for college. She also will travel to Washington, D.C., for a series of recognition events in April.

She was selected for the number of hours she has spent sprucing up Pleasant Valley Middle School, near 29th North and Amidon in north Wichita. She leads a group of students who spend lunchtimes, Saturdays and even some summer days and snow days cleaning and beautifying the school.

"I've always been helping out with something because I like doing it. It's fun for me," she said.

Marleah has planted tulip and daffodil bulbs, pulled weeds and trimmed trees and shrubs in the school courtyards. She has picked up trash, raked leaves, painted basketball backboards and painted designs on the school's concrete benches.

Last spring, she helped paint hopscotch and four-square lines on the pavement. Over the summer her group painted a huge "Foodopolis" mural in the school cafeteria, which shows healthy food items such as apples and bananas doing healthy physical activities such as riding bikes, dancing and playing soccer.

"Once you start volunteering, you know how much you help and it makes you feel good about yourself," she said Tuesday. "It's just a good thing to volunteer."

Marleah also qualified for the President's Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts to serve their communities and their country.