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Bush to Recognize Irvine Student for Her Extensive Volunteer Work

April 23, 2006|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

A young Irvine woman is scheduled to be recognized by President Bush for her extensive volunteer work when he arrives in Orange County on Monday.

Laura Chanan, 18, will meet the president and receive the President's Volunteer Service Award when he lands at John Wayne Airport before giving a speech on immigration policy.

Chanan, a senior at Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School, began volunteering at age 12 as part of a bat mitzvah project, and decided to continue when she saw the impact she was making on people's lives.

In one instance, she was the only one to show up for a resident's birthday at the Regents Point retirement home in Irvine, where she was serving.

"You invest just a little of your time, and you can make someone's week," she said by phone from Stanford University, where she is considering attending college in the fall to study chemical engineering.

"I just realized I didn't have to do that much to make a huge impact."

Chanan is the youth member on the board of directors of Volunteer Center of Orange County.

She has helped organize the group's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service for the last three years, helped plan a youth service conference in 2004 and worked on community service projects that included sending more than 160 care packages to deployed U.S. troops.

Once a week, she tutors children at the Cambodian Family.

Bush has encouraged volunteering since early in his first term. "Laura has proven that you can answer President Bush's call to service and make a tangible difference in your community at any age," said Alyssa McClenning, a spokeswoman for USA Freedom Corps, a White House office created by Bush to expand volunteer services.

Chanan said she was nervous and excited about meeting the president.

"This is the president of the United States of America," she said. "I hope that words will actually form in my mouth."

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