Nestlé USA honored the two 17-year-olds — and 16 others amongst hundreds of applicants nationwide — with the 2013 Very Best In Youth award.
The award program recognizes teens ages 14 to 18 who are excelling academically and making a positive impact in their communities, said Kimberly Abesamis, community affairs specialist for Nestlé.
Among Barnard’s accomplishments, he helped Johns Creek become registered with the National Wildlife Federation as a community wildlife habitat in 2012.
“The whole project is very much involved around education about the environment,” said Barnard, a junior at Johns Creek High School.
He said he has had a passion for science and nature from a young age and decided to start the wildlife habitat project after volunteering with organizations such as the Chattahoochee Nature Center and the National Parks Service.
“We just admire his personal goal of educating the youth and adults in his community about wildlife preservations,” Abesamis said.
The Very Best In Youth winners will receive $1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice as part of their award, and Barnard plans on giving the money to the Johns Creek community wildlife habitat project to be used for environmental education programs in local schools.
Verma, a senior at Milton High School, plans on using his award winnings to support a mission trip to Honduras organized through MDJunior, a nonprofit organization he founded that focuses on underserved communities and fosters mentoring relationships between healthcare professionals and middle and high school students.
He started the organization in ninth grade as an after-school club, and it now has about 20 chapters and is still expanding.
“Shaun is making a positive difference in his hometown and communities around the world,” Abesamis said.
Verma was recently in Honduras on an MDJunior mission trip where his organization raised about $40,000, and students from across the U.S. and Honduras spent a week assisting with medical consultation clinics and engaging in public health and education projects.
Verma is also a semifinalist for another national award through Build-A-Bear’s Huggable Heroes program.
“[The program] just encourages [youth] to continue good deeds and inspire other kids in their communities and the world,” said Carrie Patterson, chief workshop manager for Build-A-Bear at the North Point Mall in Alpharetta.
Ten Huggable Heroes will be named later this summer.