Save The Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.) Youth Founder Honored by the YMCA, Prudential and the White House

Local teen recognized as a top student volunteer in Florida, and receives a Prudential Spirit of Community Award and Presidential Volunteer Service Recognition

Deltona-resident, Olivia Russo-Hood, has been recognized for several years for her outstanding service to her local community and world at-large, yet she is only 13 years old. At the age of 10, she founded Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.) as a way to give back to the community following her experience being impacted by a Presidentially-declared disastrous flood in Atlanta, GA.

On April 25, 2014, Olivia went to her Four Townes YMCA to participate in the Healthy Kids Day, but was surprised and honored by the directors of the YMCA, who nominated Olivia for a national award sponsored by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. 

Olivia Russo epitomizes junior leaders of our world today. Her passion and commitment to living well by doing "good" helps hundreds, maybe thousands of people learn about recycling, live more responsibly locally, learn about issues and diverse cultures and provide much needed funds. Her goal is to have others join her to make the world a smaller, friendlier and greener place.

Denise Russo, Founder, Thirst Aid Live

Olivia's cornerstone project, "Leave a GOOD Footprint", is a gently-used shoe collection and fundraiser. She started this at the YMCA just over 2 years ago, and has since collected 15,000 pair of shoes. Local charities earn $.50 for each pound of shoes collected, the impact of less shoes in landfills is significant, and people around the world that need shoes get them. 300 million pair of shoes wind up in landfills annually in the USA, 300 million people around the world do not have adequate footwear, and 100,000 kids die annually from parasitic diseases that enter cuts in feet that could be prevented with a pair of shoes.

In 2013, Olivia was the first child to ever be awarded the Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence, and followed that by being recognized as the local and regional recipient of the Kohl's Cares Scholarship. 

Based on her volunteerism for 2014, the Corporation for National and Community Service recognized Olivia for her commitment to strengthen our nation and communities through volunteer service. President Obama sent a letter to Olivia congratulating her on receiving the President's Volunteer Service Award, stating, "While government can open more opportunities for us to serve our communities, it is up to each of us to seize those opportunities." Olivia has done just that. 

Prudential has recognized Olivia through their Spirit of Community Award and designated her one of the top student volunteers in Florida. Not only was she nominated by the YMCA, but they also created an award for Olivia as the inaugural recipient in 2014, the "Making a Difference in Local and Global Communities." 

Olivia shares these awards with the hundreds of people around the USA and UK that have joined her and participated in either her projects, or created their own S.T.E.P. projects. She states, "My mission is simple. If everyone does small things to make our world better, together they make a BIG difference. We can all do that. One S.T.E.P. at a time! My hope is that more kids and adults will S.T.E.P. up and just do something!" 

Olivia may not sound like a typical middle-schooler, but when she is not out volunteering, or speaking to groups, she enjoys acting in community theater, playing in the orchestra, performing with Zumba, and most importantly spending time with her family. You can follow her at or

About Save The Earth Projects, Inc.

Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.) is a youth social entrepreneurship idea organizing social change. This type of organization recognizes a social problem and then organizes, creates, and/or manages a social venture to make change.