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Meet the State Honorees: Creating for Change

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Meet some 2019 State Honorees who are helping others through art, writing, jewelry-making, film and other creative pursuits.

Ryan Stoltz knows what a difference communciation can make in the lives of kids. The eighth-grader, a reporter for Scholastic News Kids Press Corps, has written dozens of stories over the past four years to keep other students informed and share young peoples’ perspectives on current events. He was especially inspired after reporting on the work of a foundation that provides hearing aids to people in need in the U.S. and around the world. “Without the ability to hear teachers or classmates, hearing-impaired children struggle to learn and excel in the classroom,” Ryan said. “However, if these communication barriers are removed early enough, children with hearing loss can perform just as well as their peers.”

After conferring with the foundation’s leadership, Ryan got to work on a new project: assembling hearing aids, and leading volunteers to do the same. So far, he’s conducted seven work sessions and led volunteers to assemble tens of thousands of the devices. He’s planning to travel to Mexico with the foundation to help fit children with hearing aids, then produce video and print news stories to share his experience with classrooms across the country.

“I hope my story will inspire other kids to contemplate the ways in which they can make a positive difference in their communities,” said Ryan, a student at Central Middle School in Minnesota.

Ryan is just one of the honorees using their creative abilities to make a difference:

Breanna Bennett, a sixth-grader at St. James School in Alabama, worked with her twin sister to produce “Architects of Change,” an educational film about the struggles of the civil rights movement that premiered at the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery.

Shelby Farris, an eighth-grader at Woodbridge Middle School in Delaware, creates pre-printed greeting cards and then encourages people across the country to color them and send them to veterans, hospital patients and others who need a little cheer in their lives.

Stacey Gringauz, a senior at North Broward Preparatory School in Florida, makes and sells personalized bracelets with two friends and has donated proceeds each month to a different charity, including for victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and their families.

Abby Neff, a junior at Lutheran High School of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, has provided tens of thousands of melted and re-molded recycled crayons, and other art and educational materials, to students in almost every U.S. state and overseas.

Simona Adhikari, a junior at Ardrey Kell High School in North Carolina, taught girls in rural Nepal to make bracelets, and then sold them in the U.S. and United Kingdom to raise money for the girls and their small village.

Jasmine White, an eighth-grader at International School of Beaverton in Oregon, conducted training sessions in her community to teach hundreds of pet owners how to make toys for their animals with recycled materials.

Joli Lunderville, a seventh-grader at Groveton High School (Middle) in New Hampshire, worked with her Girl Scout troop to make fluffy pillows and toys for dogs and cats living in animal shelters; she also worked with her troop to build and paint a bench for a nursing home.

We’ll be profiling this year’s State Honorees now through the #PruSpirit2019 national recognition events in Washington, D.C. You can find the stories of all this year’s state-level honorees at https://spirit.prudential.com/honorees/state.