LANSING, Mich., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Sarah Maisano, 17, of Clinton Township and Ewan Drum, 10, of New Haven today were named Michigan'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, Sarah and Ewan 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 Michigan's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Sarah Maisano
Nominated by Regina High School in Warren
Sarah, a senior at Regina High School, has provided gift bags for more than 3,500 hospitalized children in 11 states. Sarah started volunteering at age 10 by accompanying her mother to a local nursing home, where she helped with bingo. "After that experience, I started to think about other ways that would have a meaningful impact on the people around me," she said. Sarah liked the idea of giving during the holiday season, so she decided to host a holiday party at her house and asked guests to bring gifts that could be donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The event was such a hit that she did it again the following year, and then thought: why not do this year-round?
Sarah began emailing corporations to solicit donations, but quickly learned that many companies could only give to official nonprofit organizations. So she spent four months filling out the paperwork to receive a 501(c)(3) designation. When Sarah's nonprofit status finally came through, she began fundraising in earnest, hosting 10 events – including a 5K run/walk – that have raised $20,000 to create care bags containing things like coloring books, crayons, jump ropes, books, puzzles and stuffed animals. Sarah's organization, called S.K.I.P ("Supporting Kids in Pain"), is now working with St. Jude's, Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and others to distribute her gift bags to sick kids. Sarah's goal is to eventually expand to all 50 states.
Middle Level State Honoree: Ewan Drum
Nominated by New Haven Elementary School in New Haven
Ewan, a fifth-grader at New Haven Elementary School, collects food, clothing and basic necessities with his family and hands them out, while dressed as a superhero, to homeless people in Detroit twice a month. Several years ago, when Ewan and his family were in Detroit for dinner, he saw a homeless man on a street corner. He asked his parents why the man was there, and was told he had no place to sleep. "That made me sad," said Ewan. His next question was: "Can I dress up like a superhero when I'm a teenager and help the homeless?" His parents responded: you don't have to wait!
So Ewan and his family made 50 bag lunches and drove downtown to pass them out. Shortly after, they set up a nonprofit organization called "Super Ewan, Inc.," and began holding fundraisers and partnering with businesses and other organizations to provide food, clothing, toiletries and other necessities for the homeless. Now, Ewan dresses up in a Superman costume every other week and distributes these items on the streets of Detroit, aided by his family and other volunteers. With roughly 80 to 125 homeless people helped each month, Ewan estimates that his initiative has made life a little easier for thousands of men, women and children since it began.
The program judges also recognized eight other Michigan students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Michigan's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Addy Battel, 14, of Cass City, Mich., a freshman at Cass City Jr./Sr. High School, has worked with fellow 4-H and FFA members to buy and raise chickens, steers, hogs, lambs and goats for a local food pantry, an effort that's provided fresh meat to 70 families a month in a community where the closest grocery store is 20 miles away. Addy, who started the initiative after realizing that low income families in her community had limited options for healthy protein, has helped to raise money and care for the animals.
Carolyn Cohn, 17, of Huntington Woods, Mich., a senior at Berkley High School, started "Teen Screens," a nonprofit that has provided dozens of laptops to students in need in her school district. After finding and anonymously donating a laptop to a classmate who didn't have one, Carolyn was determined to help others in a similar situation; she now works with a computer programmer who clears donated computers of old data and installs helpful software.
April Johnson, 16, of Houghton Lake, Mich., a junior at Houghton Lake High School, has helped to organize and stage statewide conferences as a member of the state board for the leadership group Students Leading Students. Inspired to apply to the state board after attending one of the organization's conferences as a participant her freshman year, April now works with students from other parts of the state to raise money and plan logistics for a conference that inspires hundreds of students every year.
Anna Meyers, 18, of Grand Rapids, Mich., a senior at West Catholic High School, is the creator of "Anna's Bookshelf," an initiative that collects new and gently-used books that are then distributed to children in the Grand Rapids area through locations at a local laundromat and a community college counseling center. After learning that some kids don't have books of their own, Anna started by donating books from her own collection, and then reached out to friends, family, authors and celebrities.
Nick Rutledge, 17, of Tipton, Mich., a senior at Tecumseh High School, is an active community volunteer whose service activities have included leading collection drives to provide boots and boxed meals for people living on the streets of Detroit. Nick has also participated in weeklong service trips to Kentucky and Flint through his church, volunteered stocking and unloading food at a St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, supported school and church fundraisers, and more.
Soroosh Sabouni, 17, of Battle Creek, Mich., a senior at Lakeview High School, is dedicated to finding ways to provide clean water to impoverished communities at home and abroad, and was inducted into the Water Environment Federation after inventing an award-winning water filter. In addition to extensive work researching, creating and testing filters, Soroosh has attended meetings and conferences to raise awareness of new techniques to bring filtered water to communities in need.
Stephanie Sills, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a senior at Ernest W. Seaholm High School, has helped to raise more than $44,000 for lung cancer research over the past two years as co-organizer of "The Lung Run" 5K walk/run. Stephanie, a cross-country runner, worked with her friends to start the race after learning that her mom had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, bringing together the community and other lung cancer survivors to raise awareness of the disease and money to test new types of chemotherapy.
Nikki Sorgi, 17, of Shelby Township, Mich., a senior at Henry Ford II High School, has helped to provide more than 200 blankets to sick children over the past two years by coordinating a fundraiser and blanket drive. Nikki has worked with her National Honor Society, student council, teachers and peers to collect donations and then make blankets, which have been donated to organizations including the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Kids Kicking Cancer.
"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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