ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In January, Academy of the Holy Names student Ella Schoenborn was recognized with the Youth Virtues, Valor, and Vision Award from the National Catholic Educational Association. She was one of 11 students selected for the honor.

At the age of nine, Ella was impacted when she saw a homeless man on her way to school during winter. Confused, she asked her dad about it and he explained the issue of homelessness to her.

That’s when Project Ella was born. She started collecting bottles and cans to redeem for money to purchase supplies for food. At the time she could only make eight turkey and cheese sandwiches, working with Street Soldiers to disperse the food she made. When she saw 150 people in line to collect food, she became determined to spread the world about her initiative to get help in her efforts helping others.

“She goes above and above. This is not because it is a school requirement, this is something that’s in her heart and in her soul,” said Bernadette McSparron, the teacher that nominated her for the award.

Since she started Project Ella, 16 organizations and food pantries have benefitted from her work. Project Ella is run completely by her and her father, and supported by community donations. On average they help between 300 and 500 people every week.