BISMARCK, N.D., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Nidhi Mahale, 16, of Fargo and Annabelle Barcomb, 14, of Minot today were named North Dakota'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, Nidhi and Annabelle 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 North Dakota's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Nidhi Mahale
Nominated by Davies High School in Fargo
Nidhi, a junior at Davies High School, launched a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $11,000 to improve the lives of children, by making and selling tutus, capes and hair accessories for little kids, and soliciting donations from individuals and businesses. On a family trip to India three years ago, Nidhi visited an orphanage where 16 HIV-positive girls lived. "This visit was transformative for me," she said. "I realized how blessed I was in my own life and how much I take for granted on a daily basis." She came home determined to become a catalyst for change and, with the help of her parents, founded "Project Cute."
Nidhi recruited two friends to join her effort, and together they came up with a plan to make tutus, superhero capes and hair accessories, and then sell them to generate money for charity. Over the past two years, the girls have set up booths to sell their products at more than 20 vendor shows and, with donations added in, have collected in excess of $11,000. Most of the money has gone to a wide variety of charities that aid children facing challenging circumstances, and some has been used to sponsor five orphans at the Mumbai orphanage that originally sparked Nidhi's desire to take action. Nidhi and her colleagues also have donated some of their products directly to a pediatric hospital to brighten the lives of sick children undergoing treatment.
Middle Level State Honoree: Annabelle Barcomb
Nominated by Erik Ramstad Middle School in Minot
Annabelle, an eighth-grader at Erik Ramstad Middle School, volunteers to help children and adults with special needs play baseball and also coaches soccer for a Special Olympics team, to honor a cousin with a serious disability who died last year. She also worked up to eight hours a day every weekday last summer helping out at a local nursing home. Annabelle's cousin was born with a severe disability five years ago. "In the years I spent with him, I became very passionate about helping those with disabilities," Annabelle said. "When he died, I had to find some way to honor him."
She mentioned her interest in helping people with disabilities to her school counselor, who put Annabelle in touch with Dream Catchers, a program that teaches children and adults with special needs to play baseball. She enjoyed that program so much that she signed up to coach soccer for the North Dakota Special Olympics. Working with people with special needs was challenging but so rewarding, Annabelle said. "My goal for the season was to make sure at least one person was affected by something that I did in a positive way," she said. Annabelle plans to continue her work with athletes with special needs, and has recruited her best friend to become a Special Olympics coach, too.
The program judges also recognized two other North Dakota students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are North Dakota's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Shane Anderson, 17, of Fargo, N.D., a junior at Davies High School, is an active volunteer with Distressed Children and Infants International-North Dakota, and this summer took on a role leading a new youth chapter that has sold May Day baskets, held a book sale and organized a picnic to raise awareness and funds for its work. Moved by the service-mindedness of his late friend's mother, who asked him to get involved, Shane has worked to organize meetings and spread the word about the group's mission.
Ashlen Wright, 17, of West Fargo, N.D., a junior at Sheyenne High School, has reached more than 1,700 girls with a program she created to get them excited about STEM topics by founding the Red River Valley STEM Student Advisory Board and volunteering and speaking at a variety of events. Motivated by the bewilderment of her peers when she said she wants to be an engineer or neuroscientist, Ashlen also works with STEM-related companies and organizations to further her cause.
"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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SOURCE Prudential Insurance