FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  Contact: Harold Banks, Prudential: (w) 973-802-8974 ,
May 7, 2012                                         (c) 973-216-4833,



Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning Pays Tribute to Young Heroes as Part of Four-Day
Recognition Events


WASHINGTON, D.C. – For their extraordinary efforts in serving others through volunteerism, 10 middle and high school students from across the country were named America’s top youth volunteers for 2012 today in a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters, capping the 17th year of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The 10 National Honorees, who range in age from 12 to17, were selected from 102 State Honorees and more than 26,000 applicants based on the initiative, effort, impact and personal growth demonstrated in the course of their volunteer service. They received $5,000 personal awards, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for charities of their choice.

Today’s ceremony was part of a four-day celebration that brought the top two youth volunteers from each state to Washington, D.C., with their parents, to be recognized for their outstanding acts of community service. These 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – were personally congratulated by New York Giants quarterback and 2012 Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning last night at a gala dinner reception at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The 10 National Honorees named today are:

Candonino Agusen, 17, of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, a junior at Kealakehe High School, who has helped raise more than $64,000 to buy temporary housing kits for people displaced by the earthquake in Japan last year.

Matthew Benjamin, 14, of Tulsa, Okla., an eighth-grader at Regent Preparatory School, who has raised more than $30,000 to build a home for 33 orphans in Uganda by attracting sponsorships as he trained and ran in a half-marathon last year.

Neha Gupta, 15, of Yardley, Pa., a sophomore at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, who has
founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $375,000 to provide educational and other
resources to disadvantaged children in India and the United States.

Samantha Kerker, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla., a junior at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, who has founded a student club with chapters in all 28 high schools in Palm Beach County to promote monthly service projects benefiting poor people, and is now working to send 60 students on a poverty-focused mission to a third-world country.

Emily Kladar, 12, of Hayden Lake, Idaho, a sixth-grader at Canfield Middle School in Coeur d’Alene, who has created a nonprofit charity with her sister that has raised more than $60,000 to benefit the families of children needing heart surgery.

Catherine Mitchell, 16, of Oceanside, Calif., a senior at Guajome Park Academy in Vista, who has created a business called “Beauty 4 Life” that enables women in Uganda to earn a living and educate their children by selling their handmade paper-bead jewelry in the U.S.

Raymond Mohler, 14, of Lynbrook, N.Y., an eighth-grader at Lynbrook South Middle School, who has created a foundation to help alleviate the pain, fear and anxiety felt by young hospital patients by providing toys and other gifts, arranging celebrity visits and assembling mobile entertainment centers.

Jordyn Schara, 17, of North Freedom, Wis., a junior at Reedsburg Area High School, who has created a nonprofit organization that collects and disposes of unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals so that they do not end up in the water supply, while raising awareness of prescription drug abuse.

Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood, Kan., an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, who has recorded
and sold copies of a CD that raised more than $20,000 to build two fish ponds in Africa and a home for 12
orphaned boys in Haiti.

Ashlee Smith, 13, of Sparks, Nev., a member of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross in Reno and a seventh-grader at Lou Mendive Middle School, who has founded a nonprofit organization that has collected and distributed more than 175,000 toys over the past five years for child victims of house fires and natural disasters.

“Through their extraordinary acts of volunteerism, these students are powerful examples of the way one young person can make a big impact,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”

The national selection committee was chaired by Strangfeld and included Ken Griffith, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & HandsOn Network; Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the America’s Promise Alliance; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Pamela Farr, the American Red Cross’ national chair of volunteers; Jaclyn Libowitz, chief operating officer and chief of staff for Girl Scouts of the USA; Felix Rouse, vice president of resource development for the southeast region of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Elson Nash, senior advisor for strategic partnerships at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kate Blosveren, associate director for strategic communication and outreach of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2011 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Sarah Cronk of Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rujul Zaparde of Plainsboro, N.J.

Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created in 1995 by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models.

Applications for the 2012 awards program were submitted last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of HandsOn Network. Thousands of Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected the top middle level and high school applicants in each state and the District of Columbia. These 102 State Honorees each received a $1,000 prize and an engraved silver medallion, in addition to an allexpense- paid trip to Washington, D.C. for this week’s events.

“These young people have demonstrated remarkable leadership, selflessness and compassion, and they set a fine example for thousands of other students across the U.S. who want to make a difference,” said Ken Griffith, president of NASSP. “The actions of these young volunteers exemplify the best of what America’s youth have to offer.”

Also honored on Sunday night were 10 top youth volunteers from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India who won Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in their countries in recent months. They were congratulated by Strangfeld and presented with special commemorative trophies.

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

NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. The association provides researchbased professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society®, National Elementary Honor Society®, and National Association of Student Councils®. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit

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