OLD TOWN, Maine — Connor Archer might best be described as a relentless volunteer.
When the 17-year-old senior at Old Town High School, who lives with autism, finds an activity that piques his interest, he pursues it with a seemingly infinite supply of energy.
He’s a distance runner on his school’s cross-country and track teams, a member of several school bands, an honors student and a member of the National Honor Society.
He also is the student representative to the Regional School Unit 34 board of directors.
And, most personally, he’s the founder of the Courageous Steps Project, an effort he began nearly three years ago to give back to those who have helped him face his challenges head-on and to help other children with their own challenges.
Archer recently was named a state winner of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which honor students from around the country for their volunteer efforts.
“This is not just my award,” said Archer, who will attend Husson University in Bangor this fall to pursue a degree in business management.
“There are so many great people who volunteer their time and service in our state and our communities, and for me to get this honor is because a lot of people in the community helped give me the start I needed to get to where I am now and to get the Courageous Steps Project where it is today.”
The Courageous Steps Project involves several events annually — among them a benefit dinner at the Old Town Governor’s Restaurant on March 22 and the third annual walk-run scheduled for May 22 at Victory Field.
Those events support endeavors ranging from a scholarship fund to back-to-school supply boxes and technology and garden landscaping projects at the Green House Nursery School in Milford, which gave him his educational start after he was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
He also has added a video project this year called the Courageous Steps “One Word” Challenge. Students are being asked to think of a word that describes them, with a video to be created of students from each participating school sharing their individual words on camera. Those videos will be displayed on the Courageous Steps website: thecourageousstepsproject.org.
“Connor is just an unbelievable person and mature beyond his years,” Old Town High School principal Scott Gordon said. “This award is wonderful and is a great recognition for the countless hours that he has put in to benefit others. He always deflects the recognition and talks about how his friends and community and schools have helped him to develop his foundation.
“That is Connor. He doesn’t care about the accolades, he cares about making other people happy and supporting them. We need more people in the world like him.”
Archer, the son of Mike and Jessica Archer, is one of two state Prudential Spirit of Community Award recipients from Maine, along with 14-year-old Benjamin Levesque of Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro.
Two other Maine students, Alyssa Burbank of Winslow High School and Harper Gordon of Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, were selected as distinguished finalists.
Students eligible for this year’s awards must be in grades 5-12 as of Nov. 3, 2015, and have engaged in a volunteer activity that occurred at least partly during the 12 months before the deadline.
State honorees receive a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., from April 30 to May 3 for national recognition events, including the naming of national award winners.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is sponsored and administered by Prudential Financial, Inc. in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.