November 5, 2009

VSU Student to Carry Torch at Olympic Games

VALDOSTA -- Green teen Crystal Hardy was chosen by the Coca-Cola Co. to carry the Olympic torch at the upcoming Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, on January 18, 2010.

A student dually enrolled at Valdosta State and Georgia Southern universities, Hardy was selected based on her community service efforts, which have focused on recycling and environmental sustainability.

The Dublin native co-founded the Laurens County Green Teens -- a group of teenagers who used interactive skits and engaging messages to teach elementary school children about the importance of caring for the environment. Her group also collected PET 1 bottles, which were recycled and used to manufacture carpet. Funds collected from the program's recycling efforts are funneled back into Laurens County Schools.

Hardy was also responsible for organizing the Playground for W.I.N.G.S. Project, which rebuilt a playground at a local shelter for abused women and children. She is also active in Communities in Schools, the nation's largest dropout prevention organization.

Hardy said being chosen for the honor makes her feel like her efforts to better the community have been validated.

"I'm an everyday person recognized for making a small difference in things," said Hardy, who said the task is not a reward, but a reassurance that she can have a positive impact on her world. "I am most excited about being a representative of everyday champions for positive living. I can use this platform to speak and as a chance to network."

One of only 10 chosen by Coca-Cola, Hardy said her passion for community service began during her years as a Girl Scout, which is why former leader Peggy Green -- who is responsible for Hardy's nomination -- will be making the trek with her to Canada.

A bit nervous about running the 3.5-pound torch for just over half a mile, Hardy said she's been hitting the gym to prepare for her journey in the longest torch relay in history. She is also looking forward to meeting world championship gymnast and former Olympian Shawn Johnson.

Hardy plans to double major at in American Sign Language and Mathmatics at VSU this summer and following graduation, she wants to pursue further graduate studies. Her long term goals include becoming a nationally certified ASL interpreter, working in schools for the hearing impaired and providing pro bono interpreting services, while continuing to advocate for the community issues about which she is passionate.

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