Lainie Chandler receives award from U.S. Cellular's 'The Future of Good: 16 Under 16' national competition, donates prize money to Joplin-based Rapha House

A North Shelby High School sophomore's work to fight human trafficking was nationally recognized through the Future of Good: 16 Under 16 award from U.S. Cellular. She donated the $10,000 prize to the Joplin-based Rapha House to fight human trafficking.

“Whenever we first realized that we had won, we were kind of in that state of shock — 'oh my gosh, this is really happening' — and it's so great to think about giving $10,000 to the organization that's part of this in our journey,” Lainie Chandler said.

Chandler, along with her friend and fellow sophomore Lainey Treasure, spent the past two years making presentations, creating and sharing posters and supporting a Missouri bill that would require posters warning of the signs of human trafficking to be displayed in high schools.  

Chandler received the award during a school-wide Monday morning assembly featuring a presentation about The Stop Human Trafficking Project.

Chandler said she was first inspired to address the issue when she and Treasure were at church camp three years ago. Since then, the two friends have worked with Missouri politicians, local educators and staff from the Rapha House. Several school in Northeast Missouri are now displaying posters about human trafficking.

The Future of Good program from U.S. Cellular recognizes 16 humanitarians under the age of 16, presenting them each with the prize to help them expand their efforts. Nakeita Stewart, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Missouri, said the girls' mission deserved national recognition among the top 16 youth chosen for the award.

“It has been so inspiring to hear the stories of ‘good’ that have poured in from around the country as a part of The Future of Good program, including the incredible efforts we are here in Shelbyville to celebrate,” Stewart said during the check presentation. “We’re in the fourth year of this program, and it’s an honor to champion and invest in young people who are doing so much good, and who are setting an example for everyone to get involved in their communities.”

Chandler was selected from hundreds of nominees across the country. During the assembly, she shared how Treasure has worked with her from the beginning — she missed the age cutoff for the Future of Good program award. Chandler said the past two years have shown her that there are no age requirements or other limitations for youth who want to make a positive impact.

“It's just great to see how far we've come, from being two 14-year-old girls who live in a town with a population of 570 to winning $10,000 and giving it to an organization that's helped us so much,” she said.

Chandler offered encouragement to fellow youth who want to make a positive impact in their communities as well.

“You don’t have to be widely known to make a change,” she said. “Your parents don’t have to be famous, you don’t have to live in a big city, you don’t have to have a million dollars. All you need is passion and knowledge about the subject.”

For more information about the Stop Human Trafficking Project, visitstoptraffickingproject.com. To learn more about the U.S. Cellular Future of Good program, visitthefutureofgood.com.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com