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SHS Student Named Ohio's Top Youth Volunteer of 2018

Bennett Heyn stands next to cell phone recycling bin A Sycamore High School senior has just been named the Ohio Top Youth Volunteer of 2018.

Senior Bennett Heyn was selected by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

As the High School State Honoree, Bennett will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C., where he will join the top two honorees from each of the other states for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2018.

Heyn launched a districtwide cell phone recycling campaign to help preserve gorilla habitats in Africa, keep harmful chemicals out of landfills, and show people that even simple steps can make a difference in preserving the environment. Bennett began his project after learning that lowland gorillas in Africa are being threatened with extinction because their habitat is increasingly being mined for coltan, a black metallic ore used to make capacitors in cell phones.

"I want to increase the supply of coltan by collecting cell phones so there won't be a demand for it," said Heyn. "With lower demand for coltan, the mining in Africa will decrease and the Western Lowland Gorillas won't go extinct."

After researching the problems associated with non-recycled cell phones, Bennett set a goal of collecting 2,000 unneeded phones. He worked with the administrations of all seven schools in the district to bring his campaign to their students and then purchased eight recycling bins to place at each school and the district office.

Another objective of Bennett's campaign is to enter and win a cell phone recycling competition run by the Cincinnati Zoo that would award his school district with a sizable cash prize if he collects the most phones. Regardless, he says he's committed for the long term.

"I think of my project as a long-distance race and not a sprint," he said, noting that he hopes the high school's environmental club will continue his campaign after he graduates.