2013 National Honorees
|Ten young Americans were selected in the 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program for national recognition based on their outstanding achievements in community service. The national selection committee that chose the national honorees was chaired by Prudential chairman and CEO John R. Strangfeld. Also serving on the committee were Denise Greene-Wilkinson of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute and co-founder of HandsOn Network; Donald T. Floyd, Jr., president and CEO of the National 4-H Council; Jaclyn E. Libowitz, chief administrative officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; James E. Starr, vice president for volunteer management for the American Red Cross; Scott Richardson, research analyst for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); Dru Tomlin, director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); Kate Blosveren, associate director for strategic initiatives for Achieve, Inc.; Renee’ Jackson, manager of school relations and diversity at the National PTA; and two 2012 National Honorees: Neha Gupta, a junior at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pa., and Jordyn Schara, a senior at Reedsburg Area High School in Reedsburg, Wis. The 2013 National Honorees are:|
|High School National Honorees|
She immediately sent letters and email notes to more than 300 companies and stores, asking for clothing donations. Within a couple of hours, she had her first donation and the responses grew quickly from then on. "I didn’t know that people would be so inclined to help with something like this," she said. "When I started out I had no idea I’d get to where I am now." To date, she has received more than $55,000 in monetary contributions and over $135,000 in clothing donations that include more than 40 national brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Claire’s, Hot Topic and American Eagle Outfitters. When girls make appointments to shop at Allyson’s boutique, located in a local storefront donated by a property management company, they browse through the racks of new clothes and accessories, and pick out two head-to-toe outfits. Next summer, Allyson plans to transform a large truck into a mobile boutique and take it on a 48-state tour to outfit one thousand additional girls.
Her idea was to purchase blank canvases using donations from family and friends and recruit students to create works of art, which she would then distribute to hospices and other organizations. She arranged for local hospice workers to speak at her school about the needs of its patients, and that first spring, more than 200 students created 25 paintings. The following year, she expanded to two schools and worked with a web designer to set up a website. By 2010, she had the program established in five schools and needed money to buy more canvases, so she secured $5,000 in grants from several organizations and individuals. To raise additional funds, she established an annual fundraiser at a local restaurant and began to speak to local civic groups. Emma’s program now involves student artists from more than a dozen schools, several churches, a children’s museum and summer camp programs. The artwork is being distributed to facilities in North Carolina, Florida and even Argentina, where Emma participated in an exchange program last year.
Zachary and his brother sought help from the board of education, local recreation departments, mayors and other community leaders, and began contacting potential donors to fund a nonprofit organization called “SNAP (Special Needs Athletic Programs).” They then set up a regular schedule of clinics in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, tae kwon do and other activities, all run by student volunteers six nights a week during the school year. “Children not only learn how to play sports, but gain confidence, self-esteem, and form strong and lasting friendships,” said Zachary. During the 2011-12 school year, SNAP provided 11 extracurricular programs to 140 children with special needs, and so far has trained more than 450 students to serve as mentors. In addition, SNAP has expanded its focus to reach a broader educational goal of teaching awareness and acceptance. One part of this includes sensitivity training workshops for more than 2,700 students with hands-on exercises that demonstrate what it’s like to be blind, dyslexic, autistic or challenged in some other way. “My ultimate goal for SNAP is to create an empathetic, compassionate and accepting world for future generations,” said Zachary.
The idea behind “heARTS” is that schools and individuals share supplies they don’t need with others who do need them. “It’s the best form of recycling!” Virginia said. To start her project, Virginia got her friends involved. One designed a logo and the other designed a website. Within a few weeks, she and her classmates had collected $500 worth of crayons, markers, glue sticks and other supplies for a local elementary school. News coverage and Virginia’s use of social media and public speaking opportunities soon brought requests from other schools and organizations. In addition to seeking donations of musical instruments, costumes, art supplies, puppets and craft materials, Virginia fundraises to buy new supplies for schools in need. In its first year, “heARTS” has provided more than $50,000 worth of goods and services that have benefited 4,200 children in the U.S., Haiti, Guatemala and Dominica. Virginia also has expanded her program by appointing area directors in all regions of the country and in Mexico.
Having experienced the joy of helping others, Cassie volunteered to chair a community blood drive as an officer of her school’s student council. She distributed flyers throughout the school district, made a promotional video, recruited more than 200 people to help, and secured food and raffle donations from 23 businesses. That drive collected a record 686 units of blood, and a fourth drive will be held this spring. Cassie also formed a nonprofit group of students that has raised more than $12,000 to provide computers and other items to a sister school in an earthquake-ravaged area of China, and to continue supporting relief efforts in Joplin.
|Middle School Level National Honorees|
Teagan figured a “battle of the bands” would attract the most interest, so he called the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, “and somehow they agreed to host the concert,” he said. Teagan then posted flyers at a local music school to invite bands to compete, and persuaded Guitar Center to donate guitars and help recruit celebrity judges. Ten youth bands (one of which included Alex) played for more than 400 music fans at Teagan’s first “Shredfest.” “It was an amazing day,” he said. “It felt like I did a huge favor for the world.” Thankfully, Alex got better, and so the next year Teagan hosted a second concert at the House of Blues and dedicated it to another local boy with cancer. Since then, Teagan has set up a nonprofit charity called “Shred Kids’ Cancer,” recruited numerous other young volunteers to help, signed up corporate sponsors, and organized other events such as a 5K run and bone marrow drives. He has also spoken at numerous schools, radio stations and other nonprofits to raise awareness about pediatric cancer.
Convinced that one of the best ways to help people was to feed the hungry, Joshua got his family to prepare hot meals for the homeless every Saturday. “Then I had to think of something bigger and better,” he said. He began asking friends and family members for money to buy food to distribute, and visited schools, churches and community groups to spread awareness of the need for donations. “I wanted to make people aware that hunger is not just overseas,” he explained. “It’s right here in our community.” More than 600 volunteers have helped carry out the mission of “Joshua’s Heart Foundation,” which currently distributes food to 150 families a month and conducts weekly food backpack program for young people. The foundation also puts on quarterly cooking demonstrations to teach families how to cook easy and healthy meals.
As a result, he vowed to donate his birthday presents each year to Toys for Tots. Then, when his father’s Marine unit was deployed to Iraq, Michael-Logan enlisted his classmates’ help in making and stuffing more than 400 Christmas stockings for the soldiers in his unit. He also volunteers at the veteran’s homeless shelter, the Lokahi Giving Project and the Armed Services YMCA. For the past five years, Michael-Logan has participated in the Arthritis Foundation Walk, raising more than $10,000 last year. Michael-Logan also works with at-risk kids and speaks at elementary schools about his disease, healthy eating habits and bullying. In recognition of all his volunteering, the mayor of his town designated May 4, 2012 “Michael-Logan Jordan Day.”
Her idea was to provide every young Brentwood patient with a decorated container filled with clothing, books, and other items to comfort and entertain them during their hospitalization. With her mother’s help, Erica contacted companies for donations. Then she met with the head of the hospital. “He told me he was giving me the green light because I was the first to leave and want to come back and make a difference,” Erica said. Soon, clothing chains including American Eagle, Hollister and Children’s Place were sending large donations. Erica asked her pastor to help her raise money and awareness and recruit volunteers to assemble the boxes. In just two weeks, Erica’s project had raised enough to make 140 care boxes. “The most difficult part of my project,” said Erica, “was going public with my illness. By starting ’Erica’s Wish,’ I hope to raise awareness of the many psychiatric issues adolescents are facing and dealing with today.”
Soon after being diagnosed, Louie and his family learned about the Foundation Fighting Blindness. When they discovered that the foundation holds a yearly 5K fundraising “VisionWalk” in the Twin Cities, Louie decided to form a team to participate, and has since collected over $40,000 for the foundation. For the past two years, he has served as youth chair of the entire fundraiser. “I tell my parents, teachers and friends that I not only expect to beat this disease – I expect to be part of the team that does so,” he said. Louie also organized a “Dining in the Dark” event in his school cafeteria last fall to raise money and give fellow students a glimpse into the lives of the visually impaired. The 300 kids who attended ate a meal of spaghetti and Jello-O while blindfolded and tried to read a menu board wearing special glasses that would simulate how Louie sees. The event also featured an obstacle course that students navigated while wearing blindfolds and using canes. “I think kids around me know now that it’s a lot harder to do things when you can’t see well,” said Louie.