JACKSON, Miss., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Luke Kelly, 16, of Water Valley and Davian Powell, 14, of Lexington today were named Mississippi'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, Luke and Davian 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 Mississippi's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Luke Kelly
Nominated by Lafayette County 4-H in Oxford
Luke, a junior at Oxford High School, led an effort to improve a scenic hiking trail in his town and design an educational activity to enhance walkers' enjoyment of the pathway. When the University Museum at Ole Miss asked Luke's Boy Scout troop to work on a forest trail that runs from the museum to the historic home of William Faulkner, Luke volunteered to head the project. "I wanted to do something important that I knew everyone could benefit from," he said. "Everyone needs to be outside getting exercise and public spaces are free, so I decided to improve a public space."
After meeting with the museum's staff, Luke drew up a plan for sprucing up the Bailey's Woods Trail and designed a nature scavenger hunt that children and families could participate in while walking along the quarter-mile path. Over the course of a year, Luke and his fellow scouts spent countless hours trimming branches along the trail, improving signage, digging post holes, and building a bench to sit on. For his scavenger hunt, Luke created laminated cards and installed boxes to hold them at both ends of the trail. Since the completion of the project, thousands of community members, college students and visitors have enjoyed the trail, and his Boy Scout troop has made a long-term commitment to maintain it, said Luke.
Middle Level State Honoree: Davian Powell
Nominated by Williams-Sullivan Elementary School in Durant
Davian, an eighth-grader at Williams-Sullivan Elementary School, has earned a reputation across his state for teaching and mentoring other young people to raise and show farm animals, and is a regular volunteer at several community events throughout the year. When he was just a young boy, Davian would help his grandfather feed his cows and watch his older cousin show his goats at 4-H events. Later, he became an active 4-H member and purchased four heifers of his own, and before long was showing his cows at state fairs and other agricultural events.
As word spread about Davian's skills in the care and handling of cows, he was asked to make presentations at schools and 4-H meetings, and began teaching kids how to feed cattle, keep them healthy, and prepare them for shows. He also started helping youth start their own animal-raising programs. In addition, Davian helps children ride horses at an annual "Horses for the Handicapped" event, and volunteers at "Ag Awareness Days," educating kids about where their food comes from. "It is amazing to watch the smiles on the children's faces when they touch a cow or pig for the first time," said Davian.
The program judges also recognized four other Mississippi students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Mississippi's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Annabeth Breeden, 17, of Vicksburg, Miss., a senior at Vicksburg Catholic School, is an active member and president of the Mississippi State Society Children of the American Revolution, where she has led an effort to raise money for lighting at the historic Rosalie Mansion in Natchez. Annabeth has made presentations and coordinated fundraisers at the regional, state and national level so that the front of the antebellum mansion can be illuminated after dark.
Dylan Carpenter, 18, of Carthage, Miss., a member of Leake County 4-H and a senior at Leake Central High School, has spent the past five years brightening the days of residents at a local nursing home, leading an activity program and encouraging others in the community to get involved. Dylan, whose efforts included a Halloween event where the residents distributed hundreds of donated bags of candy to more than 900 trick-or-treaters, is now working to expand his program to other area nursing homes.
Caroline Spell, 18, of Hernando, Miss., a senior at Magnolia Heights School, helped to raise nearly $10,000 for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital by working with friends on a weeklong school fundraising event that concluded at a Friday night football game. Caroline recruited her friends to help plan and execute the event and, to help students understand that their contributions could save a life, also organized an assembly featuring the childhood friend whose experience with neuroblastoma inspired her efforts.
Kristen Taylor, 17, of Crawford, Miss., a senior at Starkville Academy, has been volunteering since she was 8 years old with Contact Helpline, a telephone service that supports people thinking of harming themselves and makes reassurance calls to senior citizens and people with disabilities who live alone. Kristen, who volunteered alongside her great-grandmother until she retired last year, has also handed out gifts every Christmas to their "reassurance" callers, and helped with the organization's fundraising events.
"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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