PITTSFIELD, Maine — There are bigger volunteer service awards than the ones won by Benjamin Glidden, but the Maine Central Institute senior isn’t concerned about awards. All he cares about is that when he leaves MCI and Pittsfield, he leaves them better than he found them.
“It’s kind of cool to be recognized, but that’s not why I do the work,” said Glidden. “I do the work to help.”
Glidden, 18, has always been an active member of the community, mostly through Pittsfield’s First Congregational Church. Then MCI chose him to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Project at University of New England in Biddeford.
“I was skeptical at first,” he said. “When I arrived, there were all these people screaming funny cheers, but I learned more than I have at any other conference. It was a completely life-changing experience.”
Glidden returned to Pittsfield with a vigor for volunteerism. He continued work for his church and MCI’s Key Club, but he soon found himself giving his Saturdays to the Pennywise Thrift Shop in Pittsfield. He also immersed himself in activities at school, eventually becoming his class’s first triple president in recent memory.
Glidden, who is ranked eighth in his class academically, is president of the student council, the Class of 2010 and the National Honor Society.
“Ben has the most community service I’ve seen out of any student since I’ve been here,” said Jason Judd, MCI’s director of guidance and adviser to the Key Club. Judd nominated Glidden for the leadership project in Biddeford. “We wanted to recognize him as a school to inspire the younger students and his peers.”
Glidden said he knows younger eyes are watching, including his 9-year-old brother, Matthew.
“He always talks about how he wants to be just like me and go to the same college I do,” said Glidden. “He’s a really great kid.”
So it came as little surprise when Glidden received a 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which followed up a President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama.
Despite those accolades, Glidden hasn’t lost his focus on simply helping people. Last week, that spirit had him dressed up in front of the student body as Paper Day Man, espousing the merits of recycling as part of MCI’s 2010 theme of sustainability.
“I’ve done a lot of public humiliation before,” he said with a chuckle. But that’s exactly the kind of attitude that won Glidden the award from Prudential.
“The recipients of these awards vividly demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, in a press release. “They truly deserve all of the praise and encouragement we can give them.”
Glidden said he credits his parents, Chuck and Lori Glidden, along with his grandparents, for all of his success.
“They were always instilling the belief that I should try my hardest at everything,” he said. “That’s when they’re most proud of me.”
Lori Glidden said her son’s positive spirit was evident from an early age and that she expects it to follow him throughout his life.
“He’s just a great kid,” she said. “I haven’t had an issue with him in 18 years. I guess he’s too busy to get into any trouble.”