Destin resident driven by community service

Kerri Andre spent the last two years of high school collecting weekend meals for elementary schools. She organized it within these cabinets by food types to make packing efficient.

Community service, just as much as science, has driven Kerri Andre’s choices as she explores the next chapter of her life.

Instead of attending a Florida school, the 17-year-old Fort Walton Beach High School senior is headed to Georgia where she found a program that will let her conduct research and work with other students equally invested in helping others.

Kerri discovered her second passion during a summer leadership program between her sophomore and junior year involving people from Feeding America.

“It’s this noble quest to end hunger in America and they are giving you a chance to get involved with it,” Kerri said. “And it really resonated with me.”

By the time she got home, she knew she wanted to start a weekend and holiday feeding program for students at neighboring Edwins Elementary School.

“I set out to make a change in my community and it started out just as a small idea,” Kerri said.

With the support of the school’s Beta Club, she launched a “backpack” program to provide meals for 10 students. Each Thursday they came together to pack the weekend bags with donated, kid-friendly food.

Friday mornings, Kerri walked across the street and gave the bags to Edwins’ guidance counselor who quietly distributed them to students.

“It’s kind of different from other service projects in that you don’t get to immediately see the effect,” Kerri said.

The best clue to her impact? They were able to help 10 additional students this school year. Next year, she hopes the numbers will grow further as she hands over the reins to leaders in the Beta Club.

She’s created a binder for them with the ins and outs of the program and plans to keep in touch.

“Yeah, I definitely have all their phone numbers,” Kerri said with laugh.