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Jake Bernstein - Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Finalist

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Uploaded on Oct 7, 2011

While most high school students spend their free time at the local movie theater or the mall, 17-year-old Jake Bernstein chooses to devote his time to Autism Speaks. Averaging an impressive 100 volunteer hours per month, Jake is involved in everything from tutoring and coaching to organizing and directing free summer clinics for St. Louis youth with autism. Jake's drive to support the organization came after his family experienced an outpouring of support from the local community when Jake's dad was deployed to North Carolina at Cherry Point on military reserves duty with the Marines. In an attempt to "pay it forward," Jake began searching for volunteer opportunities for youth under the age of 18 in the St. Louis vicinity. Due to security, safety and liability concerns, many organizations were unable to welcome Jake and take him up on his generous offer to give back to the community. But that didn't stop Jake; he was determined to help.

Recognizing a need for a youth volunteer database, and also hoping to empower his peers, Jake and his sister designed a regional website to help point local teens in the right direction. After meeting with St. Louis Mayor, Francis Slay, a host of non-profit agencies, museums, religious institutions and educational leaders, Jake launched www.stlouisvolunteen.com. In addition to his time spent each week populating the website, Jake is responsible for promoting volunteer opportunities and recruiting youth volunteers for projects throughout the region. Now averaging more than 1,000 visitors per day, www.stlouisvolunteen.com has become a valuable resource for youth seeking volunteer opportunities and those non-profit organizations hoping to fill vacancies. News about the website spread quickly and numerous cities have since asked for Jake's help with similar websites. Jake has his sights set on his next project, www.volunteennation.com.

In addition to his success in the social media space, Jake organized the annual St. Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair, the nation's only youth-coordinated volunteer fair. More than 35 non-profit organizations have participated and more than 3,000 youth have walked away with volunteer opportunities. From this volunteer networking event, Jake managed to inspire several youth on the autism spectrum to help with www.stlouisvolunteen.com events such as park cleanups, volunteer fairs and an annual tennis clinic for children with autism. Additionally, Jake spearheaded a 9/11 "Serve to Remember" park cleanup and community walk that honored those individuals that died in the September 11 attacks.

Even President Obama is aware of what Jake is doing for his peers. The President recently highlighted Jake's accomplishments in a back-to-school address at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, D.C. Emphasizing America's need for young people's passion and ideas, President Obama praised Jake for his devotion to community service for young people.

While volunteerism is a huge part of his everyday life, Jake also highlights NASCAR as one of his greatest passions. Jake counts Rusty Wallace and Kasey Kahne as favorite drivers, even carrying a photo of Rusty Wallace in his wallet. Jake also credits Kasey Kahne for being his original inspiration for volunteering in the community. Kahne's commitment to national service encouraged Jake to become involved. If Jake is named the Betty Jane France Humanitarian of the year, he will donate the $100,000 to Autism Speaks.

To vote for JAKE to win the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, log on to WWW.NASCAR.COM/award!

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