TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Annie Farrell, 17, of Miami and Chase Hartman, 11, of Tampa today were named Florida'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, Annie and Chase 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 Florida's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Annie Farrell
Nominated by Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida in Miami
Annie, a senior at Coral Gables Senior High School, organized three college-prep workshops to help about a dozen students who had aged out of foster care navigate the complicated and often overwhelming college application process. "As the daughter of a first-generation college student, I'm aware not everybody lives with the expectation that college is the next step," said Annie. Since she was about to begin applying to colleges, she thought she could help some at-risk teens by taking them through the process with her.
First, Annie researched the application process and collected tips for success. Then she recruited two University of Miami admissions counselors, three Miami Herald writers, and the education director of a local cultural center to help her conduct three workshops for residents of Casa Valentina, a nonprofit that houses and assists young people who are too old to remain in foster care. At the first workshop, the college counselors explained how to complete a college application and the residents were provided with the tips and information that Annie had compiled. At the next two sessions, the newspaper writers addressed how to brainstorm topics for application essays, and helped each student craft an essay. Annie also created a "college cubby" at Casa Valentina stocked with college guides, binders and test preparation books, and gave each student a college sweatshirt to symbolize the path they had embarked upon.
Middle Level State Honoree: Chase Hartman
Nominated by Mary E. Bryant Elementary School in Tampa
Chase, a fifth-grader at Mary E. Bryant Elementary School, collected more than 15,000 books with his best friend and donated them to 23 organizations across two states so that kids and others without ready access to books could discover the joy of reading. "I've always loved to read," said Chase. "My parents made sure I had a stocked library in my room and my teachers always have great books in their classrooms." But last year while working on a book drive that yielded hundreds of books for kids in need, Chase realized there are many children who don't have books of their own. "I knew I could do more," he said.
After Chase found a local company willing to give away thousands of books, he and his friend reached out to others for additional book donations on social media, as well as through interviews with the press, collection boxes, and presentations to schools and community groups. Since last August, the boys and other young volunteers they recruited have spent many hours collecting books, sorting them into categories, and delivering them to Title I schools, libraries, ministries, a local veterans hospital and other organizations. "I know we are making a difference," said Chase. "We are helping kids learn to love reading."
The program judges also recognized eight other Florida students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Florida's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Patricia Abely, 18, of Maitland, Fla., a senior at Winter Park High School, led an initiative to create an outdoor classroom for a Title 1 elementary school, raising more than $1,500 by running a summer day camp and then recruiting family and friends to help bring her vision to life. After finishing the outdoor classroom, which featured nine refurbished picnic tables and a butterfly garden, Patricia returned to the Orlando school to teach the first- through fifth-graders about butterflies.
Joaquin Borggio, 17, of Lutz, Fla., a senior at Steinbrenner High School, is the founder of "Filling Needs, Inc.," a nonprofit he started in ninth grade that has collected more than $1,400 in funds and materials to support two under-resourced rural schools in his native Uruguay. In addition to collecting individual donations, Joaquin hosted "foot-golf" tournaments and yard sale fundraisers, and has worked to coordinate the logistics of transferring funds and resources to the schools in time for the new school year.
Maisy Lam, 17, of Miami, Fla., a senior at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, has spent the past four years co-organizing "Foster Hope, Foster Thanks," an effort that provides complete bags of Thanksgiving groceries to about 65 low-income families served by the Miami-Dade Foster and Adoptive Parents Association. In addition to gathering food for the Thanksgiving drive, Maisy, whose efforts were inspired by an adopted friend, has led collections to provide cookies and toys to children served by the group.
Phoebe O'Neill, 18, of Lake Wales, Fla., a senior at All Saints Academy, started and now runs a healthy eating program for kids at the Winter Haven PEP Community Center, raising $9,000 from the community and visiting the center after school to prepare healthy snacks ranging from pita pockets to fresh guacamole. Phoebe, a volunteer with the center, started her initiative in summer 2016 to provide the children with healthier options than the sugary snacks provided by the county.
Leslie Purvis, 18, of Doral, Fla., a senior at Ronald W. Reagan/Doral Senior High School, created helpafterstroke.org, a website with worksheets she created in English, Spanish and French to help people improve their cognitive skills after a stroke. Leslie started the website after failing to find resources in Spanish for her grandfather and deciding to create her own; she also included information about stroke awareness and how to donate to the American Stroke Association.
Katherine Quesada, 16, of Davie, Fla., a junior at American Heritage School, founded "Friends for Fosters," a nonprofit that works to provide resources to children in foster care, and has so far donated 120 duffel bags so that children don't have to move their belongings from home to home in garbage bags. Katherine's fundraising efforts, which included letter-writing and bake sales, raised $1,600 for the duffel bags; the nonprofit has also worked to organize a toy drive to provide foster children with Christmas gifts.
Olivia Russo-Hood, 15, of Deltona, Fla., a freshman at University High School, is the founder of "Save the Earth Projects (STEP)" and, for one of its projects, collected more than 22,000 pairs of shoes in less than four years for a group that donates $.50 a pound to charity, then redistributes the shoes to people in underdeveloped countries. Olivia started STEP to repay the kindness shown to her family after being displaced by a major flood.
Jordan Thorp, 18, of Newberry, Fla., a senior at Oak Hall School, has worked since she was 8 years old to help children around the world who, like her little cousin, were born with clefts, starting a nonprofit and raising more than $100,000 for hospitals, comfort teddy bears and the cleft lip and palate charity Smile Train. Since learning that children treated for clefts were often bullied, Jordan has also given presentations at schools across the state to discourage bullying by promoting self-esteem.
"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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