MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Elizabeth Lipp, 16, of Mountain Brook and Louise Adair, 13, of Tuscaloosa today were named Alabama's top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Elizabeth and Louise 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 2017.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Alabama's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Elizabeth Lipp
Nominated by Mountain Brook High School in Mountain Brook
Elizabeth, a junior at Mountain Brook High School, is co-president of a club that brings special education students together with her school's general student body to improve social skills and foster friendships and a respect for differences. Since junior high school, Elizabeth has been involved in outreach programs for special education students. So when she got to high school, she immediately gravitated toward a service club called "Circle of Friends" that sought to help students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers get to know each other and feel more comfortable in social situations. "It was a dying club," said Elizabeth. "I fought endlessly to revive interest from the student body."
With the support of her school's administration, Elizabeth organized a "Circle of Friends Celebration Week" to honor teachers and students in the special education department. For the celebration, she and her volunteers solicited donations from local businesses, persuaded community members to donate meals, and organized special events. She then began running monthly breakfast socials for club members and special education students, and revived a "buddy" program that pairs students for weekly lunches, field trips, and after-school activities such as bowling and baseball. "Our club has allowed typical students to see differently-abled peers as friends," Elizabeth said.
Middle Level State Honoree: Louise Adair
Nominated by Tuscaloosa Academy in Tuscaloosa
Louise, a seventh-grader at Tuscaloosa Academy, traveled on a mission trip with her family to North Carolina twice in the past two years to assist refugees from numerous countries by cooking, cleaning and helping with their children. Louise learned about One7, a faith-based organization in Charlotte that provides transitional housing, mentoring, and tutoring for refugees, when a representative spoke to her congregation. "I knew people who had gone and said it was amazing," said Louise. "This was important to me to help others who have lost everything."
On her mission trip, Louise spent part of her time cleaning a local high school, and cleaning and setting up apartments that serve as temporary housing for newly-arrived refugees. She also helped distribute food, clothing and other essentials; prepare meals; tutor young students after school; and take care of babies. The most difficult part, Louise said, was the language barrier. "Most of the refugees spoke different languages and very little English," she explained. If given the opportunity, she said, she would love to go back. "I learned about what people have gone through. Not everyone has a bed to sleep in at night and food to eat for dinner. It taught me to be thankful for what I have," said Louise.
The program judges also recognized four other Alabama students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Alabama's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Grace Abernathy, 16, of Alpine, Ala., a sophomore at Sylacauga High School, organized a school supply drive at a local middle school, collecting 160 items for students in need to use during the school year. Grace has also supported the Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement's school supply drive for the past two years, and this summer helped the organization collect $277 and additional supplies for kids in need.
Ruth Adams, 17, of Auburn, Ala., a senior at Auburn High School, has been volunteering since 2015 with a day camp designed to keep kids away from negative influences over the summer, supervising campers during three weeks of fun activities and providing special kindness and attention to those who seemed to need it most. Ruth also helps out when she can at the camp's year-round fundraisers, and volunteers at a local community market.
Hayden Burch, 17, of Auburn, Ala., a junior at Auburn High School, created the "Pages from Pam Elementary Book Campaign" to help every second-grader in Talladega, Alabama start their own home library – and, so far, has collected 1,200 books and $3,205 toward his goal. Hayden launched the campaign in honor of his late aunt, who spent most of her career teaching second grade in Talladega, and has dedicated more than 200 hours to making contacts, applying for grants, following up with volunteers and more.
Eli Wright, 17, of Dothan, Ala., a senior at Rehobeth High School, is an active volunteer who has mentored young kids at church, participated in community service projects through his school's NJROTC, and helped people living in poverty in Haiti through fundraising and a mission trip. Eli, whose service is inspired by a single mother who volunteers at church and in the community, has also mentored kids at a camp where, as a child, another young leader mentored him.
"Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities."
"These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it's a privilege to celebrate their work," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students."
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. These 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 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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, India, China and Brazil. 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.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, 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.
About Prudential Financial
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 www.news.prudential.com.
For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance