BOISE, Idaho, Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Joseph Thomasson, 15, of Lewiston and Shelby Kettler, 10, of Pocatello today were named Idaho'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, Joseph and Shelby 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 Idaho's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Joseph Thomasson
Nominated by Jenifer Junior High School in Lewistons
Joseph, a freshman at Jenifer Junior High School, has made more than 200 blankets to keep cancer patients warm during their chemotherapy treatments after watching his older brother shiver through years of chemotherapy and then experiencing the treatments himself. "I have been watching my brother go through chemo since I was 3," said Joseph. And now, "being a cancer patient myself, I know how cold you can get while you are getting your chemo treatment." As a result, Joseph decided to make fleece tie blankets to help other cancer patients stay comfortable.
After Joseph and his mother created web pages to advertise his blankets and solicit money for materials, Joseph designed a form to enable patients at a local children's hospital to request a personalized blanket. When someone requests a blanket with one of his forms or through Facebook, he picks out fabric that he thinks the recipient will like, and then goes home to make the blanket, sometimes with the help of friends. He personally delivers his blankets to patients who live in the Lewiston area; otherwise, he mails them. He also has delivered blankets to a day camp for families of cancer patients. "Every time I deliver one of my blankets or mail one out, I know the blanket is bringing comfort and helping someone through a tough time," said Joseph.
Middle Level State Honoree: Shelby Kettler
Nominated by Pocatello Community Charter School in Pocatello
Shelby, a fifth-grader at Pocatello Community Charter School, organized a collection drive at her school that gathered nearly 1,000 books for children at a local homeless shelter. "I have a big passion for books," said Shelby. "Whenever I can get my hands on an interesting book, I think about people who can't afford them." She felt particularly bad for children who are between homes and have no access to books, so she asked the manager of a homeless shelter if there was a need for children's books at his facility. The answer was a resounding "yes."
With her principal's permission, Shelby announced a book drive at her school. She put up posters around the building, set up a donation box, and spoke at a schoolwide meeting to explain that she wanted to gather 200 books in one month. The response was so great that Shelby ended up with nearly a thousand books -- so many that she needed her grandfather's van to haul them to the homeless shelter just in time for Christmas. "It gave me that nice, cozy, warm feeling inside because I know that I did something terrific," said Shelby.
The program judges also recognized two other Idaho students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Idaho's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Kassandra Brown, 18, of Boise, Idaho, a senior at Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, is an active volunteer with the Idaho National Guard Child and Youth Programs, helping to provide mentorship, holiday parties and recreational activities to support and connect fellow military children. In addition to helping younger kids, Kassandra also plans youth groups for older military children, and represents her state's program at leadership symposiums once a year.
Cheyenne Quilter, 18, of Boise, Idaho, a member of Girl Scouts of Silver Sage and a senior at Renaissance High School, created "Treasure Valley H2O Safety Pals," a water safety awareness program aimed at teaching kids and their guardians how to swim and safely enjoy the open water. Moved to act by a friend's water-related death, Cheyenne researched the causes of drowning, attended the National Organization for Youth Safety conference to learn about safety advocacy, then embarked on a campaign that included free swimming lessons, a water safety program toolkit, a PSA and billboards.
"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