Catholic Central student earns national recognition

Detroit Catholic Central freshman Caleb White won the National Catholic Education Association’s “Youth Virtues, Valor and Visions” award. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

DETROIT — At 6 years old, Caleb White saw something in Detroit that’s become all too common: homelessness.

So, at 6 years old, Caleb chose to do something that isn’t common enough. He decided to help.

For the past eight years, Caleb, now a freshman at Novi Detroit Catholic Central High School, has created and led “The Caleb White Project,” a nonprofit in the Detroit area that creates care packages for the homeless (

For his extraordinary efforts in caring for others, White was recognized Feb. 2 at the 2017 Catholic Schools Week Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament with the National Catholic Educational Association’s “Youth Virtues, Valor, and Visions” award.

The award is meant to acknowledge Catholic schools students who, inspired by faith, strive to make a difference in their community.

“I have a nonprofit to help the homeless and a bunch of other projects,” Caleb said after receiving the award from Melissa Lipsmeier, associate superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese. “When I was about 6 years old, I saw a man on the sidewalk, and for the first time, I heard the word ‘homeless,’ but I didn’t know what it meant. So I decided to pack of box of supplies.”

From that first box, The Caleb White Project has expanded, handing out 200 care packages last year and 400 this year.

The Youth Virtues, Valor and Visons award isn’t the only accolade Caleb has received. In 2015, he was named one of two Michigan winners of America’s Top Youth Volunteer by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Washington, D.C. Caleb has received accolades both locally and nationally, including the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Governor’s Youth Leader of the Year Award and the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship.

“As I’ve continued, the project has grown over the years,” Caleb said. “It’s amazing to get this recognition; I’ve gotten so much support and getting the award is just amazing.”

In addition to The Caleb White Project, Caleb also started Impacting by Backpacking, which has given out more than 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies; Game Night at the Shelter; Global Youth Service Day; Shelter Cleanup, which cleans and builds play areas for homeless children; and The Caleb White Project has a close relationship with The Empowerment Plan, which employs homeless women to sew coats that turn into sleeping bags for the homeless. The Caleb White Project has donated more than $6,000 to The Empowerment Plan.