SANTA FE, N.M., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Peter Alarid, 18, of Silver City and Alexandra Burnham, 13, of Farmington today were named New Mexico'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, Peter and Alexandra 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 New Mexico's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Peter Alarid
Nominated by Silver High School in Silver City
Peter, a senior at Silver High School, speaks to military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and their spouses about his experiences growing up in a family "torn apart" by a father who suffered from severe PTSD. After Peter's father returned from Iraq, his family endured years of his rage and paranoia until he and his wife attended a retreat at a veterans healing and wellness center. "They returned with a sense of spiritual and emotional healing," said Peter. "I thank God every day for what those people and my parents were able to do."
Peter was later able to visit the retreat and observe what happens there. On that visit, he was given the opportunity to speak to the couples who were there about his family's experience. "As I spoke, we all wept," he said. "It truly changed my life. I decided I wouldn't stop doing anything I could to help anyone like me or my family." Since then, Peter has spoken many times to groups of veterans and their spouses, describing the impact that PTSD can have on family members and emphasizing that there is always hope. He also has made videos about what he feels and how he survived his childhood, which are shown at retreats in Texas and New Mexico. As a result of his efforts, Peter was inspired to become much more involved in school-based service activities as well.
Middle Level State Honoree: Alexandra Burnham
Nominated by Sacred Heart Catholic School in Farmington
Alexandra, an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School, takes her dog, Lucy, to a nearby nursing home each week to cheer up the residents and staff members, utilizing skills she learned in a five-month class on working with therapy dogs, and in more than 50 hours of training Lucy. While visiting the nursing home many times before with her Girl Scout troop, Alexandra noticed how few people came to see the residents on a weekly or even monthly basis. She loves animals and thought that maybe she could brighten the days of the senior citizens there by sharing that love.
Alexandra first had to attend a therapy dog class every Sunday and then start training Lucy every day. It wasn't easy, she said, but she finally got Lucy to the point where she was ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test. "We passed in one try!" said Alexandra proudly. She now takes Lucy to the nursing home during her school lunch break every Tuesday and their visits never fail to put a smile on the faces of the residents. Alexandra also made several short videos on the importance of visiting nursing homes, and she shares her "awesome" experiences with classmates after each visit.
The program judges also recognized two other New Mexico students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are New Mexico's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Jade Denninger, 18, of Las Cruces, N.M., a senior at Oñate High School, helped lead a performance fundraiser with fellow members of the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet that collected $1,800 for the American Cancer Society in memory of the ballet's founder, who died from ovarian cancer in 2005. As the leader of its fundraising committee, Jade suggested that the company choreograph and perform a show to further its work supporting the cancer society, and then helped to promote, choreograph and stage the event.
Lithany Devontenno, 17, of Belen, N.M., a senior at Belen High School, is an active member with Staters, a high school community service group that participates in local food drives, lends a hand with a variety of community needs, and hosts an annual Thanksgiving food collection that helps to feed 50-60 local families in need. Lithany also volunteers through her National Honor Society, helping with its annual toy collection for kids living at a children's shelter.
"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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