May 5, 2008


U.S. Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel co-chair judging panel

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Pays Tribute to Young Heroes as Part of Four-Day Recognition Events

WASHINGTON, D.C. - For their extraordinary efforts in serving others through volunteerism, ten middle and high school students from across the country were named America's top ten youth volunteers for 2008 today in a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters, capping the 13th year of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Ranging in age from 12 to 18, the ten National Honorees received personal awards of $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for the schools that nominated them, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for the charities of their choice.

Two of the National Honorees are cancer survivors who now spend a great deal of time providing hope and inspiration to other young people with the disease, while two other honorees operated lemonade stands in their towns to raise large amounts of money for medical service dogs and cancer research. Other National Honorees founded a restaurant-style soup kitchen, started an international kids organization to address needs around the world, sent CDs and DVDs to American troops serving overseas, organized a "Freedom Walk" to commemorate 9/11, and educated others about depression and suicide. Another honoree rallied her community to build a modular home at her school for a victim of Hurricane Katrina, and then transported it to Mississippi.

The ceremony was part of a four-day celebration that brought the top two youth volunteers from each state and the District of Columbia to Washington, D.C., with their parents to be recognized for their outstanding acts of community service. All 102 were personally congratulated by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, at a gala dinner reception last night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

The ten National Honorees named today were selected on the basis of their personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth. They are:
Kristen Allcorn, 18, of Sedalia, Mo., who founded a soup kitchen that provides a hot evening meal five days a week, serving needy residents at tables as if they were eating in a restaurant.  Called The Community Café, Kristen's kitchen has served more than 12,000 meals since December 2006.

Kristin Brandt, 17, of Lock Haven, Pa., who rallied her school and community to help her build a two-bedroom modular home on her school grounds.  After 16 months of fund-raising and construction, the house was hauled 1,200 miles to Mississippi, where it was presented to an 80-year-old woman who had lost everything to Hurricane Katrina.

Bria Brown, 13, of Miami Gardens, Fla., a five-year cancer survivor who recruited friends, classmates and her Girl Scout troop to help her conduct a drive in her community to collect teddy bears, which she personalizes and delivers to other young cancer patients to bring them hope and encouragement.

Shanna Decker, 17, of Plainview, Minn., who has made more than 600 visits to young cancer patients over the past nine years to give them hope and inspire them with her own cancer experience, which resulted in a leg amputation.  She also is a frequent speaker at events across the country, and has participated in activities that have raised more than $120,000 for sick and disadvantaged kids.

Talia Leman, 13, of Waukee, Iowa, who started an organization called "RandomKid" that seeks to educate, motivate and unify young people around the world to work on a broad spectrum of pressing needs.  Her projects have raised money for hurricane victims, helped build a school in Cambodia, and provided clean water in Africa.

Jenna Machado, 17, of Boulder, Colo., who founded a nonprofit organization to increase awareness about depression and suicide prevention, after a cousin took her own life. Jenna has delivered community presentations on the warning signs of depression and suicide, conducted an education program in middle and high schools, and raised money to provide treatment sessions for at-risk teens.

Riley Miller, 14, of Bowling Green, Ky., who has organized an annual citywide day of lemonade sales for the past three years to raise money for childhood cancer research, after losing two little brothers to leukemia.  Last year, Riley managed 200 volunteers and 29 lemonade stands, collecting more than $19,000 and bringing her three-year total to $50,000.

Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, 16, of Cleveland, Tenn., who collects CDs and DVDs and sends them out every week to American soldiers serving in combat zones. More than 200 organizations across the country have joined her "Tunes 4 the Troops" campaign, and over 170,000 discs have been shipped to boost the morale of U.S. troops overseas.

Mark Rinkel, 12, of Aurora, Colo., who raised more than $16,000 to provide medical service dogs for his little brother and other children suffering from type I diabetes. To raise the money, he operated a lemonade stand at community events last summer, and built a Web site to solicit donations.

Joey Rizzolo, 13, of Paramus, N.J., who organized a "Freedom Walk" last September that drew more than 450 local residents to join in remembering the lives lost on 9/11, including many in his own town.  Joey's event also was dedicated to thanking first responders, U.S. service members and veterans for saving lives and protecting our freedom.

"These honorees are inspiring examples of young Americans who care deeply about the needs of others and who have taken the initiative to help meet those needs," said Arthur F. Ryan, chairman of Prudential Financial, Inc.  "By honoring them, we hope not only to give them the recognition they so richly deserve, but also to inspire others to follow their example."

Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 13 years ago by Prudential to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 80,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.

Applications for the 2008 awards program were submitted last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Volunteer Centers affiliated with the Points of Light & Hands On Network.  The top middle level and high school applicants in each state were announced in February; each received a $1,000 prize and an engraved silver medallion.

NASSP President Barry Stark said: "The young people in this country are capable of doing some extraordinary things given the time and the opportunity. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is one of the great showcases of their amazing acts of kindness and selflessness. We are pleased to once again join Prudential in honoring them for their accomplishments."

Also honored on Sunday night were eight top youth volunteers from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Ireland who won Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in their countries in recent months. They were congratulated by Ryan and presented with special commemorative trophies.

The national selection committee that chose the ten National Honorees was co-chaired by U.S. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Arthur Ryan of Prudential. Also serving on the committee were actor Richard Dreyfuss; Alma Powell, chair of the America's Promise Alliance; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & Hands On Network; Amy B. Cohen, director of Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Kathryn Forbes, national chair of volunteers, American Red Cross; Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; Barry Stark, president of NASSP; and two 2007 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Kelly Davis of West Bath, Me., and Kelydra Welcker of Parkersburg, W.Va.

In addition to the organizations above, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are supported by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Middle School Association, the National School Boards Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, the National School Public Relations Association and many other national youth and service organizations.

More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees can be found at or

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States' largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service.  The program is part of a broad youth-service initiative by Prudential that includes a youth leadership training program administered by the Points of Light & Hands On Network; a free booklet of volunteer ideas for young people offered through the Federal Citizen Information Center; and a Web site featuring profiles of outstanding youth volunteers, volunteer tips and project ideas for students, an electronic newspaper on youth volunteerism, and more (

The National Association of Secondary School Principals - the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders - provides its members with the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders.  NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of youth through its programs and student leadership services. NASSP sponsors the National Honor Society™, the National Junior Honor Society™, the National Elementary Honor Society™, and the National Association of Student Councils™. For more information on NASSP, NHS, NJHS, NEHS or NASC, visit

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader with approximately $631 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2008, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Leveraging its heritage of life insurance and asset management expertise, Prudential is focused on helping more than 50 million individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth. The company's well-known Rock symbol is an icon of strength, stability, expertise and innovation that has stood the test of time. Prudential's businesses offer a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services. For more information, please visit