BATON ROUGE, La., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Anna Katherine Tollett, 16, of Ruston and Zach Morgan, 12, of Denham Springs today were named Louisiana'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 Katherine and Zach 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 Louisiana's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Anna Katherine Tollett
Nominated by Cedar Creek School in Ruston
Anna Katherine, a junior at Cedar Creek School, has worked tirelessly over the past eight years on behalf of kids who, like her, suffer from Type 1 diabetes, raising funds to find a cure, enhancing public awareness of the disease, campaigning for legal rights and protections for diabetic students, and providing support to newly-diagnosed children and their families. "When I was first diagnosed, the daily demands of managing this relentless disease combined with the often-misinformed public perception of diabetes left me feeling overwhelmed and alienated," said Anna Katherine. But "because of the support and guidance of family, friends and community, I became determined to reach out to those living with diabetes, and challenge the public perception of the disease."
The day after she left the hospital, Anna Katherine participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual fundraising walk, and in subsequent years led a team of her own. With help from her father, she shot a 30-second public service announcement about diabetes, which won the top prize in a national contest and has been seen by more than 16,000 viewers. In 2012, Anna Katherine successfully lobbied her state legislature to make it easier for kids to manage their diabetes at school, and then took part in a lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., that secured millions of dollars for diabetes research. She also helped start a foundation that aids kids and their families immediately following a new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.
Middle Level State Honoree: Zach Morgan
Nominated by Live Oak Middle School in Denham Springs
Zach, a sixth-grader at Live Oak Middle School, collected more than 5,000 hats and 2,000 toys for kids with cancer, and secured a grant to fund a week-long summer camp for children with the disease. It all started when Zach saw a TV commercial about childhood cancer. "I felt bad for kids who had cancer," he said. "I felt bad that it changed their childhood. I wanted to make them feel better."
Since he already liked to collect baseball caps, Zach decided to begin collecting them for kids who lose their hair to chemotherapy. He received 250 new caps and hats in his first drive at a local Walmart store, and then threw a pizza party at a local children's hospital to hand them out. Subsequent drives have yielded thousands of additional hats, which have gone to kids across the country. "I have learned that even the smallest things – like a baseball cap – can put the biggest smile on a kid," said Zach. He also distributes toys through "Treasure Chests of Courage" that he has placed at several cancer treatment facilities. In addition, Zach has hosted events that have generated more than 1,000 pounds of food for students at local schools who have little to eat on weekends.
The program judges also recognized four other Louisiana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Louisiana's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Nelson Gueho, 17, of Livonia, La., a senior at Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee, led a project to establish a food bank at a fire station in his town, an effort that involved constructing an 8x10x9-foot room, holding a food drive to fill it, and now working with his local chief of police to keep it stocked and maintained on an ongoing basis. The pantry Nelson constructed opened just in time to help people in need after a disastrous flood.
Miranda Hawthorne, 17, of Woodworth, La., a senior at Holy Savior Menard Central High School, has collected more than 1,000 pounds of recyclables at her school through "Saving the World One Box at a Time," a program she created to combat waste. Moved to act after watching a teacher throw away a stack of PowerPoint printouts because she'd printed the wrong one, Miranda delivered recycling boxes to each classroom; she now gathers their contents and takes them to a local recycling plant on a weekly basis.
Elizabeth Hughes, 14, of Coushatta, La., an eighth-grader at Red River Junior High School, has conducted various service activities to support senior citizens in her community including helping to build wheelchair ramps so they can move freely in and out of their homes, and helping out at a local nursing home three times a week over the summer. Elizabeth also works with her grandmother to visit the homes of local senior citizens.
Macy Wells, 18, of Loranger, La., a senior at Hammond High Magnet School, joined her local fire department as a junior volunteer in May 2016, and since then has served more than 200 hours helping with water rescues, medical emergencies and traumas, including in the aftermath of a recent disastrous flood. Macy, a student in her school's medical magnet program who aspires to a career in sports medicine, has also volunteered on the sidelines at several games alongside her school's athletic trainer.
"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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