Carmel student wins national honor
Prudential Spirit of Community Awards select 102 student volunteers to earn $1,000 awards, silver medallions and trip to nation’s capital. Of these student volunteers, some created programs for children with disabilities. Many worked to provide food to peers in need who go without subsidized school meals over the weekend. A few worked to raise awareness about the danger of distracted driving.
Those are just some of the stories of the 102 youth volunteers – two from each state and the District of Columbia – who were named State Honorees by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring students in grades 5-12 for outstanding volunteer service. Read the names and stories of this year’s honorees at http://spirit.prudential.com.
A Carmel student is one of those recognized. Grace Zhang, 18, a senior at Carmel High School, organized a one-day “street store” in Indianapolis last year that enabled more than 200 struggling families to obtain free, gently-used clothing. A couple of winters ago, Grace watched as a homeless man tripped on his baggy pants and fell to the sidewalk. “No one helped him,” she said. “I watched as his dog licked the tears off his face.”
That sad image stuck with Grace and prompted her to begin researching organizations that help the poor. She came across Street Store, an international project started in South Africa to give the homeless and p
eople in need a dignified shopping experience. After obtaining instructions and materials from the organization, Grace went to work.
She enlisted the help of fellow students in her high school club, contacted local organizations that serve the poor, solicited clothing donations at schools and in the community, and lined up sponsors. The week before her event, Grace was devastated to learn that her beloved grandfather in China was dying. She had a choice: cancel the Street Store or risk never seeing him again.
“I knew my grandfather wouldn’t have wanted his illness to impede on charity for the homeless,” she said. So she proceeded to set up her store, and welcomed needy shoppers to choose from among 16,000 articles of donated clothing. Sadly, Grace’s grandfather died without hearing about her successful event. “But I saw my grandfather in every shopper,” she said.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Each of the 102 State Honorees will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C. for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017.
In addition to the State Honorees, the program’s judges recognized 234 students nationwide as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion. More than 500 other applicants were awarded Certificates of Excellence for their volunteer work.
Many of this year’s State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists were recognized for promoting a love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to their peers. Several worked with their state and local governments to improve their communities, and a few took over charitable programs to ensure that people in need could continue to be provided with essential services. A number of these top youth volunteers led initiatives to help children with cancer and other illnesses, and many more worked to combat bullying and promote inclusiveness in their schools.
“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”
“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their work,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017. Each of these National Honorees will receive:
- a $5,000 award
- a gold medallion
- a crystal trophy for their nominating school or organization, and a $5,000 Prudential Foundation grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice
Since the program began in 1995, more than 115,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China and Brazil. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.