Caroline Brown, 18, of Glide and Cody Grater, 13, of Portland today were named Oregon's top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Caroline was nominated by Glide High School in Glide, and Cody was nominated by Meadow Park Middle School in Portland. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Caroline, a senior at Glide High School, organized a walkathon in her small town that raised enough money to dig two wells in the impoverished African nation of Niger so that villagers could gain access to clean water for the first time. Caroline knew that she wanted to do something to alleviate suffering after touring an exhibit depicting what life is like for children affected by disasters, conflict and poverty around the world. “I was drained after viewing this,” she said. “How could I keep living so freely knowing what I now knew?” Then, while researching a speech for her English class, she learned that 5,000 children die everyday due to unsanitary water, and decided that would be her mission.
After gaining permission to use her school track for a walkathon, she searched websites for tips on how to organize one. To attract walkers, she created her own website, and had a poster designed and printed with money she earned pulling weeds. She also spread the word through Facebook, email, flyers, church and school announcements, and local news media. Caroline then recruited volunteers to work at the event, arranged for people to bake snacks, solicited prizes from businesses, and produced T-shirts for the walkers. Her goal was to raise enough to build one well in Niger through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, but she ended up with more than $5,500, enough to construct two wells, part of another, and some extra money for a clean water fund. “It was a wonderful feeling to finally mail off that check!” said Caroline.
Cody, an eighth-grader at Meadow Park Middle School, has helped his former music teacher clean and organize her classroom every summer since he was in the fifth grade, and last year helped her move to a new school and paint the dingy walls of her room a bright cheerful color for its incoming students. Cody said he helps his former teacher because she inspired him to keep making music. “I enjoyed so much seeing the smile she put on the faces of everybody around her,” he said. “I started thinking: how could I get that smile to appear on people’s faces?”
Cody assisted with the transition into the new music room by moving instruments, cleaning out items that had accumulated over the course of nine years, and spending a full day painting. During previous summers, he had assisted with similar tasks in the old classroom. The best part of helping his teacher, Cody said, was “imagining the kids that were going to walk in the first day of school and see their dusty music room transformed to a place where they can smile and grow.” Cody also has helped collect clothing for orphans at Christmastime, and worked with an elementary school chess club for one hour a week during the school year.
As State Honorees, Caroline and Cody each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013.
The program judges also recognized four other Oregon students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Oregon's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Kiran Bernard, 17, of Portland, Ore., a senior at Centennial High School, has raised $6,500 to support the Dougy Center, a national center for grieving children and their families, through his school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter. Kiran is also an FBLA State Officer and teaches workshops state-wide on resume writing, organization, time management and community service.
Erin Kirby, 15, of Oregon City, Ore., a freshman at Oregon City High School, has raised $3,000 to support her “Pillowcases for Patients” program for which she has sewn and distributed 400 custom pillowcases to comfort children fighting life-threatening illnesses all over the world. Erin, whose inspiration was her own experience with a traumatic brain injury, began her project less than a year ago after creating a Facebook site to increase awareness and collect donations.
Katelyn Phelps, 17, of Ontario, Ore., a senior at Ontario High School, co-founded the “Laundromat Ministry” with two friends in 2009 and has since collected more than $1,200 to provide soap and fabric softeners for people to clean their laundry. Katelyn and her team visit the local Laundromat once a month to distribute the products to those most in need.
Abbey Roberts, 17, of Albany, Ore., a senior at Santiam Christian Schools, is an active community volunteer helping to stock shelves and distribute groceries to families at the Junction City Local Aid Center. In addition, Abbey is a member of her school’s drama club that performs street drama ministry skits and has traveled to Uganda to volunteer at orphanages, schools and medical clinics.
“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
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. Nearly 5,000 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 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 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 and India. 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 on behalf of President Barack Obama.
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 36 countries around the world. The association provides research-based 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 www.nassp.org.
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit http://www.news.prudential.com/.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833
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