JOPLIN, MO.--- The Golden Lion Award is recognizing a local high school senior who has spent countless hours volunteering at a national monument in Southwest Missouri. It was 2006 when Ashley Burns and her dad first started helping out at the George Washington Carver National Monument.
"It was a way to spend time together and learn a lot about nature and George Washington Carver," said Ashley Burns, East Newton High School Senior.
At first, it was just picking up trash and trail maintenance. Over the years, Burns responsibilities have grown.
"Will do it all - she'll go out and work on the landscape or especially on the trail. And she will also come in and do programs for the public, so we're just honored to have her here," said Diane Eilenstine, GWC Park Ranger.
"I teach anywhere from 2 to 75 people, the peanut milk demonstration that Carver invented for the Belgian Congo. And we all do a demonstration where we crush peanuts and we make peanut milk," said Burns.
While Burns has volunteered hours and hours to help out at the park, she says she's also benefitting.
"I've grown so much in my communication and public speaking skills, especially in the lab demonstrations, but just being able to help people. I think my biggest honor is being able to help junior rangers earn their badges and having little kids look up to me is incredible," said Burns.
Burns will graduate soon - and while college is next on the list, she plans to continue volunteering.
"I will major in biology at MSSU for my first four years, earn my bachelors of science. And I plan to go on to an optometry school for another four years and use my skills to go on medical missions and own my own practice," said Burns.
"When she comes in, she just lights the place up and we all feel glad to be able to work with her," said Eilenstine.
For details on the Golden Lion Award sponsored by Missouri Southern State University and Biemdiek Insurance, click here.
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