CARSON CITY, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Pranit Nanda, 17, of Reno and Athena Morales, 13, of Las Vegas today were named Nevada'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, Pranit and Athena 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 Nevada's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Pranit Nanda
Nominated by Davidson Academy in Reno
Pranit, a junior at Davidson Academy, started a geography club two years ago to give elementary and middle school students in Reno a better understanding of the world we live in. While preparing to compete in the National Geographic Bee, Pranit realized how little students actually learn in school about geography. "Geography is not taught in depth," he said. "My geographic knowledge has given me significant context for understanding current events. I wanted to share my passion and knowledge." So, Pranit decided to start a club called, "Young Geo Explorers," to increase students' interest and knowledge of the world.
He introduced his concept to an after-school program at a local elementary school. He found resources online to help in creating lesson plans and began leading regular club sessions at the school. Once that initial club was up and running, Pranit expanded his program to a middle school, a second elementary school and a Boys and Girls program. During that time, he has continued to improve his lesson plans with the help of a geographic information company, and utilized educational items such as maps, globes and puzzles donated by the Geography Alliance in Nevada. Pranit also created a website to reach out to individuals who might want to start clubs in their own communities. Over the past two years, more than 100 students in Reno have gained a deeper understanding of the world by attending Pranit's club sessions.
Middle Level State Honoree: Athena Morales
Nominated by Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas
Athena, a seventh-grader at Explore Knowledge Academy Charter Secondary, developed a STEM-based educational patch program for the Girl Scouts and plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the patches to install two filtered water fountains with bottle-filling stations in her community. As a Brownie, Athena learned about the importance of water resources in her city, the declining water level in Lake Mead, and the trash created by used plastic water bottles. "Living in the Mojave Desert, water is a very important resource in our community," she said. After participating in a trash cleanup at a wetlands park and seeing the large number of discarded plastic bottles, Athena and her troop decided to use money from cookie sales to purchase refillable water bottles.
But then they ran into the problem of running out of water, both at their Girl Scout house and on walks in a local nature preserve. So, Athena decided she would try to raise enough money to install water fountains at the Girl Scout facility, as well as at the nature preserve. She came up with the idea of developing a series of patches that Girl Scouts could earn by performing specific science-related educational activities. After creating the requirements and materials needed by participants to earn each patch, Athena designed the patches and then sent out requests for quotes from embroidery companies. She hopes that the sale of her patches, along with the other fundraising activities, will generate sufficient funds to complete her water project.
The program judges also recognized four other Nevada students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Nevada's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Griffin Becker, 18, of Las Vegas, Nev., a senior at Centennial High School, has provided company and comfort to people approaching death as a volunteer at Nathan Adelson Hospice, helping with tasks from moving patients to getting water to sitting and listening. After seeing the love and attention provided to his grandmother when she died, Griffin decided to train as a hospice volunteer to provide others with a similar quality of care.
Kristen De Guzman, 18, of Las Vegas, Nev., a senior at West Career and Technical Academy, created a club last year that's mobilizing students and the community to reach her goal: raising $12,000 for the charity Thirst Project to build a water well in Swaziland by April 2017. To raise money and awareness toward her goal, Kristen created a fundraising page and a school PSA; she also plans and holds meetings every other week, and promotes the initiative in the community.
Scott Harrison, 17, of Stateline, Nev., a senior at George Whittell High School, co-founded BlackHispanicInterviewCoaching.com, a nonprofit that pairs minority undergraduate students with seasoned professionals for job interview coaching. Wanting to help bridge the divide he observed while living in diverse communities, Scott and his co-founder recruited more than 30 coaches through LinkedIn, reached out to potential mentees at top colleges around the world, and are now soliciting support from college career centers and Fortune 500 companies.
Kelly Tay, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a senior at Ed W. Clark High School, has been a member of her school's Key Club since her freshman year and, as its current president, organizes weekly service activities that mobilize other students to serve their community. Motivated to volunteer after an eye-opening visit to her parents' native Cambodia, Kelly recently increased participation over a prior-year car wash by 300 percent.
"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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