LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Emily Richey, 17, of Paris and Gable Sloan, 11, of Fayetteville today were named Arkansas' 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, Emily and Gable 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 Arkansas' top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Emily Richey
Nominated by Paris High School in Paris
Emily, a senior at Paris High School, created a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $13,000 to provide nearly 150 special dolls and stuffed animals to dementia patients in eight nursing homes. During her freshman year in high school, Emily was inspired by a motivational speaker to do something unique to impact her community. "Most organizations in my area focused on helping children," she observed. "While this is great, the elderly population was often neglected." As she searched for project ideas, Emily discovered "doll therapy" research indicating that "giving dolls or stuffed animals to dementia patients triggers something in their brains and causes them to feel loved, needed, and calm," she said. Emily immediately recalled visiting her great-grandmother eight years earlier and showing her a new stuffed pink poodle that she had just received as a birthday gift. "She fell in love with it and wanted to keep it," Emily said.
Emily contacted the National Alzheimer's Association to find out what kind of dolls are most suitable for the elderly. Then she filed for nonprofit status and began applying for grants. She also persuaded her Future Business Leaders of America chapter at school to take on her initiative as its annual project. Working together, they collected $13,500 through grants, sponsorships and other fundraising activities, purchased 147 stuffed animals and lifelike dolls for $50 to $100 each, and delivered them to nursing home residents. Emily's hope is that they "recreate the joy that my great-grandmother experienced with my stuffed animal."
Middle Level State Honoree: Gable Sloan
Nominated by McNair Middle School in Fayetteville
Gable, a sixth-grader at McNair Middle School, operates a nonprofit bakery and catering business that has raised more than $4,000 for a variety of charities and causes, and is now funding an annual scholarship for graduating high school students who have demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism. Gable has loved to bake since she was very young. One morning, when there wasn't enough space in the pantry for her freshly baked muffins, she took them outside to the curb and began selling them to friends and neighbors. Soon, she was selling her baked goods regularly on Saturdays and Sundays, and since she had long admired her parents and teachers for volunteering in her community, Gable decided to donate her proceeds each day to a different charity.
Over the past two years, "Gable's Bakery" has given money to a local food program, a homeless shelter, a flood relief fund, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the American Heart Association and other charitable causes. More recently, she decided to use a portion of her baking dollars to grant a $1,000 college scholarship each year to a deserving community-spirited high school student. "My idea was to send service-minded students up the ladder of high education in hopes each one turns back and lends a hand up the ladder to the next," said Gable.
The program judges also recognized four other Arkansas students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Arkansas' Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Jackson Eaton, 17, of Huntsville, Ark., a senior at Huntsville High School, created "Hunstville Alike Not Different (H.A.N.D.)," a school program that brings together students with and without disabilities several times a month to eat, play games and socialize. Jackson, whose sister has Down syndrome, noticed that many special education students at his school were isolated from the other kids, and wanted to leave a legacy that would help his sister and others with disabilities once she starts there in a few years.
Jessa Goodeaux, 17, of Lonsdale, Ark., a junior at Fountain Lake High School, worked with her FFA on a project that raised more than $4,100 to buy and package more than 15,500 meals for students in need in three school districts. Inspired by leadership conferences she'd attended over the summer, Jessa suggested the project as an effort to fight food insecurity; she raised awareness and money for the project through letter-writing, a presentation and other activities, and personally filled thousands of bags of rice.
Bradi Matlock, 17, of Springdale, Ark., a senior at Arkansas Arts Academy High School, has spent almost every last Monday of the month since 2014 volunteering with her grandmother at Life Source, a service offering dinner and prayer to people in need. Bradi lends a hand with efforts to unload a truck full of donated food, prepare and pass out dinner and then clean up, in addition to conversing and building relationships with attendees; she's also encouraged friends and family to join their efforts.
Abigail Torres, 18, of Warren, Ark., a senior at SEACBEC (Warren) led a schoolwide personal hygiene item drive to provide classmates in need with items including deodorant, dental floss, body wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste. After hearing a girl request deodorant from a school counselor and be told that the office had run out of supplies, Abigail recruited several school clubs to help her collect a variety of personal hygiene products to fulfill future needs.
"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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