SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- William Bauman, 17, of Grayslake and Kayli Roe, 12, of Palatine today were named Illinois' 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, William and Kayli 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 Illinois' top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: William Bauman
Nominated by Grayslake North High School in Grayslake
William, a junior at Grayslake North High School, launched a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness about the hazards of distracted driving and other aspects of road safety, an effort that has attracted national attention and helped pass a state law banning the use of handheld phones while driving. Four years ago, William and his mother were involved in a fender bender when she took her eyes off the road for a split second to read a text message. "At that moment I had a terrible thought about how close we came to being killed or killing somebody, just because of texting," said William. He knew he had to warn people about the dangers of distracted driving.
He started by visiting schools and scout troops to talk about distracted driving, and got permission from his mayor to display 100 signs throughout the town. He posted public service announcements on YouTube, sought interviews with the news media, and spread his message at parades and festivals. His efforts attracted the attention of a state legislator, who worked with him on a bill prohibiting drivers from using handheld phones. William has since created a nonprofit organization to teach children and teens how to be safe while walking, bicycling, and driving. His organization also presented 63 reconditioned bicycles and bike helmets to kids from low-income families. In addition, William has traveled to Washington, D.C., and Florida to advance his cause, and has worked with teens in India to make their roads safer.
Middle Level State Honoree: Kayli Roe
Nominated by Immanuel Lutheran School in Palatine
Kayli, a seventh-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School, has raised more than $25,000 to help people in need by selling jewelry and other craft items that she and her younger sisters make through their organization "Sisters Giving Hope." It all began with a jewelry box that one of Kayli's sisters received for Christmas in 2012. "I was thinking about all the people in the world who might not have enough money for Christmas presents," said Kayli. "I thought we could change that." After discussing it with their parents, the sisters decided to make jewelry to sell.
They began spreading the word about their idea by contacting friends and creating a Facebook page. At first, Kayli and her sisters made jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces, but then expanded their products to include dog toys, jump ropes, blankets and art. They set up tables at grocery stores, churches, schools, stores and festivals to sell their wares, and also accept orders via email. Every three months, Kayli said, they support a new cause. So far, they have started a college fund for a boy whose father died of ALS, contributed to a boy's stem cell transplant, raised money for a girl with brain cancer, and helped make a former soldier's house wheelchair accessible. "I want to show the world that just because you are young doesn't mean that you can't make a BIG difference in the world," said Kayli.
The program judges also recognized eight other Illinois students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Illinois' Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Caleb Campbell, 18, of Greenville, Ill., a senior at Bond County Community Unit 2 High School, has volunteered for five summers with the St. Louis VA, dedicating more than 750 hours to helping with recreational activities including a craft clinic for veterans with spinal cord injuries. Caleb, who also initiated his church group's now-annual project serving lunch at the VA on Veteran's Day, credits his work there with helping him stay positive after undergoing brain cancer surgery and treatment in 2012.
Maya Esparza, 18, of Geneseo, Ill., a senior at Geneseo High School, has raised more than $1,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by decorating and hand-stamping old keys with positive words, then selling them through her "Keys for Kids" Facebook page with the help of her school volunteer club. Motivated to help sick children like the ones she met during her own hospitalization for allergic attacks, Maya has also supported St. Jude by running 13 miles in a benefit race.
Logan Haskill, 16, of Rock Island, Ill., a senior at Rock Island High School, co-founded "QC Closet2Closet," a nonprofit that has provided clothes and other necessities to more than 300 young people who are homeless or, as his adoptive twin sisters once were, living in foster care. Logan, who started the organization with his siblings in 2013, recruits and manages the group's volunteers, assists with its drives to collect new and gently-used clothes, and helps with data collection and grant writing.
Paige Hollendonner, 18, of Darien, Ill., a senior at Hinsdale South High School, is a leader and co-founder of youth nonprofit "The Cancer Smashers," and since 2012 has helped to coordinate fundraisers that have generated more than $50,000 for cancer research at Northwestern University. The group, which now has more than 100 members, has funded the purchase of an advanced microscope and the creation of the Cancer Smashers Fellowship Award for Cancer Research.
Eden Jacoby, 17, of Deerfield, Ill., a senior at Deerfield High School, has raised $25,000 since 2008 to help people affected by lymphoma and, as an intern for the Lymphoma Research Foundation, created a 15-page manual with strategies to help other teenagers contribute to the cause. In addition to leading a walk team and participating in nine benefit 5Ks over the years, Eden started a business selling handmade bracelets and necklaces, with 100% of proceeds going to the lymphoma foundation.
Mallika Luthar, 16, of Champaign, Ill., a junior at University of Illinois Laboratory High School, was inspired by the death of a friend with cancer to volunteer for Danny's Fund, an organization his parents created in his memory, and later created a satellite club at her high school that has raised $10,000 for cancer research over the past two years. In addition to fundraisers, Mallika's "Pediatric Cancer Awareness Club" has volunteered at Ronald McDonald homes and sent care packages and meals to families of kids with cancer.
James Mathew, 18, of Hinsdale, Ill., a senior at Hinsdale Central High School, is the co-creator of "Got Food?", a mobile app designed to fight food insecurity by helping people in need, and those who serve them, locate nearby food pantries and other resources in 14 states. James is a junior director of development at his local food pantry, and was inspired to create the app after learning how many clients were struggling to connect with food charities because they didn't know the hours and locations.
Samantha Newman, 18, of Deerfield, Ill., a senior at Deerfield High School, created the "Mr. I Children's Charity," a nonprofit that has raised $6,000 and donated hundreds of teddy bears to five children's hospitals in the greater Chicago area. Motivated by her own childhood experience being comforted by a teddy bear during a series of MRIs, Samantha solicited the help of a stuffed animal manufacturer, found a local business to create little T-shirts for the bears, and created a website and Facebook page to raise awareness of her cause.
"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