JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Meredith Sharp, 18, of Springfield and Madeline Domian, 11, of Fenton today were named Missouri'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, Meredith and Madeline 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 Missouri's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Meredith Sharp
Nominated by Greenwood Laboratory School in Springfield
Meredith, a senior at Greenwood Laboratory School, raised more than $13,000 to provide new athletic shoes for all 311 students at a local elementary school in a low-income area of Springfield. While volunteering as a math tutor at a Boys and Girls Club, Meredith noticed that most of the kids playing in the gymnasium there wore shoes that were too small, too big, or worn out. "My own feet sported the latest and greatest in athletic footwear," she said. "On the feet of everyone around me, I saw ill-fitting, loose, snug and tattered footwear. I knew I had to act."
Meredith created a nonprofit organization called "Just for Kicks," then began soliciting donations in person and by mail from relatives, neighbors and business leaders. While she had hoped to collect enough money to buy shoes for one class of kids, she had amassed enough to outfit an entire school in just a matter of months. She picked a school where more than 90% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and collected the shoe sizes of every student. After negotiating a competitive price with a major shoe manufacturer, Meredith allowed the kids to choose from a variety of styles and colors, and placed her order. With help from several other volunteers, she presented the excited students with their new shoes last May.
Middle Level State Honoree: Madeline Domian
Nominated by Stanton Elementary in Fenton
Madeline, a sixth-grader at Stanton Elementary, mobilized her whole school to help her create care kits for children undergoing chemotherapy in honor of a beloved aunt who died from cancer in September 2015. After her Aunt Katie-Do was diagnosed, Madeline and her sister sold cookies at their neighborhood garage sale and donated the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. When her aunt died, "I thought to myself: what can I do to keep her memory alive,?" said Madeline. "I remembered how hard chemo treatments were for her, and I thought no kid should have to go through that."
Madeline researched the needs of children in chemotherapy and then asked her principal if she could get her school's students involved in making "chemo care kits." With the help of a counselor and her school's leadership team, she kicked off a school-wide drive with a PowerPoint presentation to the entire student body. Madeline requested items to help kids deal with the side effects of chemotherapy (such as chap stick, lotion and hand sanitizer), keep them comfortable (socks, hats and blankets), and keep them busy (games, toys and puzzles). "Everyone thought it was a great idea, and donations started piling in," said Madeline. After enough items were collected, students helped assemble 50 kits and deliver them to St. Louis Children's Hospital. Since then, Madeline and her helpers have put together more than 200 additional kits for kids battling cancer.
The program judges also recognized six other Missouri students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Missouri's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Haley Farris, 17, of Oldfield, Mo., a senior at Chadwick School, created "4Confidence," a program designed to help middle school students learn to love themselves through biweekly meetings covering topics from bullying to eating disorders. Haley, who started the group after realizing she wasn't the only one struggling with low self-esteem, organized pageants to raise money for group activities and increase the confidence of the young contestants she recruited from the community.
Cameron Gehlert, 16, of Linn, Mo., a junior at Linn High School, leads a recycling initiative in his school system and community that has diverted tens of thousands of pounds of paper and cardboard from landfills by setting up recycling bins and establishing a cardboard collection. Cameron collects 40 large recycling tubs from the school every two weeks for delivery to a single stream bin; he also picks up cardboard from local businesses and then compresses it for recycling using his cardboard baler.
Joshelle Hargus, 13, of Aurora, Mo., an eighth-grader at Aurora Junior High School, is the creator of "Joshelle's Funky Flip Flops," making more than 500 pairs of handmade flip flops since 2008 and using proceeds from her sales to buy shoes and clothes for 100 kids in need. Moved to help by a kindergarten classmate's only pair of torn-up shoes, Joshelle has gone on to sell her flip flops at craft shows and spread the word about her cause through events and media appearances.
Brenna Heavin, 14, of Rolla, Mo., a freshman at Rolla Junior High School, has raised more than $12,000 to support people affected by cancer through "Cupcakes for Cancer," an initiative that has baked and sold more than 10,000 cupcakes since 2011. Brenna, whose efforts benefit a group that helps people with cancer and their families pay for everyday items from groceries to wigs, has worked with her family and her best friend to plan, execute and advertise the sale.
Madelyn Hubbs, 16, of Bridgeton, Mo., a junior at Pattonville High School, has used her experiences being born without her left arm to give a series of school presentations over the past several years, and recently helped Shriners Hospitals for Children to develop an anti-bullying toolkit that patients around the world can use in their communities. Madelyn came up with the concept after learning that a Shriner's assessment showed bullying to be the top cause of concern among patients and their parents.
Caleb Wolf, 16, of Kearney, Mo., a sophomore at Kearney High School, is a co-founder and junior board member for the nonprofit "Henson's Heroes," whose efforts have helped to provide more than $125,000 worth of gifts to patients, patient families and staff at Children's Mercy Hospital. Moved to serve by a life spent mostly in hospitals undergoing serious surgeries, Caleb has also supported the hospital as a guide and volunteer, and as a member of its kids advisory network and teen advisory board.
"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
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