FRANKFORT, Ky., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Anna-Maria Beck, 17 and Andrew Dunn, 13, both of Louisville, today were named Kentucky'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, Anna-Maria and Andrew 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 Kentucky's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Anna-Maria Beck
Nominated by Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville
Anna-Maria, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, has responded to a fierce struggle with brain cancer by raising money and awareness for the benefit of other young cancer patients. When Anna-Maria was 7 years old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that necessitated eight rounds of chemotherapy and more than a dozen surgeries. While sitting for hours in the chemo clinic during treatment, Anna-Maria said she began thinking about how she could make a positive difference for the other patients she saw there. "Sitting as a patient in a hard, uncomfortable chair, my emotions and ideas overwhelmed and prompted me to take action," she said.
Since she loved baking and sweets, Anna-Maria decided to hold a bake sale at her school. Joined by friends, schoolmates and family members, she spent a whole week baking and raised $8,000 in a single day for a pediatric oncology clinic. Subsequent sales more than doubled that amount. In 2014, she shared her story at the Kosair Children's Hospital's annual fundraising dinner, which raised nearly $400,000 for the hospital. Recently, Anna-Maria traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of young cancer patients, and has recruited a third of her school's student body to participate in a dance marathon that will raise money for clinic needs and research.
Middle Level State Honoree: Andrew Dunn
Nominated by Barret Traditional Middle School in Louisville
Andrew, an eighth-grader at Barret Traditional Middle School, started a citywide campaign to mobilize students and other community members to perform random acts of kindness throughout the year. Andrew got the idea four years ago when his parents set up an Advent calendar that challenged him to do something nice for someone every day in December. He came up with ideas such as anonymously leaving donuts for neighbors. "This got me thinking about the impact we could have if I could get all my friends involved," Andrew said.
Calling his campaign RAK Louisville ("Random Acts of Kindness"), he set up a website offering ideas on how to make a positive difference in someone's day, and talked to friends, classmates, neighbors and his soccer team about his project. It really took off when Louisville's mayor proclaimed December 23 as Random Acts of Kindness Louisville Day, and two TV stations interviewed Andrew. Today, he and the RAK Club at his school identify student-friendly service opportunities throughout the year and mobilize individuals and teams to work on a variety of projects, many of which benefit organizations serving homeless and other people in need. One of their bigger projects was organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for 168 homeless people. Andrew said he hopes RAK will expand beyond Louisville's borders. "People want to serve but they just don't know how to start," he said.
The program judges also recognized four other Kentucky students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Kentucky's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Gavin Howard, 11, of Hawesville, Ky., a sixth-grader at Mary Carrico Catholic School, has raised about $20,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis over the past several years by selling T-shirts he helped design, soliciting donations and collecting his birthday money. Inspired to act by a St. Jude radiothon he heard when he was 7 years old, Gavin now sells shirts and talks on the radio as part of the event, and aspires to volunteer directly with the hospital's young patients once he turns 16.
Jillian Morrison, 17, of Goshen, Ky., a senior at St. Francis School, volunteered on behalf of her 74-year-old aunt for a program that provided hearing aids in exchange for 200 hours of service, offering relief for her aunt's advanced hearing loss as a way to thank her for the support she'd provided to the family when Jillian's sister was being treated for cancer. Jillian, a junior board member for an organization that helps kids and adults with hearing loss, has also helped to raise money for children's cochlear implants.
Kennedy Sabharwal, 17, of Lexington, Ky., a senior at Sayre School, has delivered more than 4,000 books and movies to hospitals across Kentucky through "Project Redlight," a nonprofit she created to provide entertainment to hospitalized kids. Inspired by a friend with cancer who talked about how boring his hospitalizations could be, Kennedy has worked with friends and family and hosted donation drives at church and at school – efforts that now stock six rolling book carts at six different hospitals.
Holly Zoeller, 18, of Louisville, Ky., a senior at Assumption High School, founded Kentucky's first chapter of Operation Smile at her high school, recruiting more than 200 members and leading efforts that raised enough money to fund almost 70 cleft lip and palate surgeries. Holly, a participant with Operation Smile's National Leadership Council, has also participated in the charity's International Student Leadership Conference and worked directly with its beneficiaries during a medical mission trip.
"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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