PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Max Hempe, 17, of Wakefield and Haylee Balme, 13, of Coventry today were named Rhode Island'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, Max and Haylee 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 Rhode Island's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Max Hempe
Nominated by Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick
Max, a senior at Bishop Hendricken High School, waged a campaign to purchase a bullet- and stab-proof protective vest for a police dog in the Cranston Police Department's K9 unit. During his years as a Boy Scout, Max developed a strong interest in the well-being of his community, and a deep respect for law enforcement. "When I learned the police K9 working dogs of Cranston did not have any protection, I knew something had to be done," he said.
Max put together a plan to raise enough money to buy a protective dog vest. He set up a Facebook page to appeal for donations and contacted family members, friends and corporations throughout New England for help. He also recruited fellow Boy Scouts to join his effort. It took four months for Max to finally collect the $1,050 needed for the vest, which is now protecting Zeus, a purebred Czechoslovakian Shepherd. "To know that I helped make the community and its officers safer filled me with immense pleasure," said Max. "I feel I am Zeus' protector."
Middle Level State Honoree: Haylee Balme
Nominated by Rhode Island 4-H in Coventry
Haylee, a seventh-grader at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, led her 4-H club in collecting money and donated items to make 100 "blessing bags" for homeless people in West Warwick and Providence. As the weather turned colder last October, Haylee grew more concerned about the people she saw on street corners begging for money. She decided they could use some extra help, so she talked to her 4-H club about providing them with bags of helpful items.
The 4-Hers hit up their families for donations, local businesses were asked for contributions, and Haylee's father helped her set up a crowd-fundraising website. After collecting a sizable amount of money and products, Haylee's 4-H team met at her house to pack toiletries, snacks, hats, blankets, hand-warmers and other items into 100 freezer-size bags. They personally handed out their blessing bags at a Sunday dinner hosted by a homeless-services organization in West Warwick, and then distributed the rest through another charitable group in Providence. "I learned there are so many homeless people right here that need our help," said Haylee. "This made all of us appreciate our lives!"
The program judges also recognized two other Rhode Island students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Rhode Island's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Michaela Bellisle, 18, of Exeter R.I., a senior at Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School, has served as a producer and director for her school's Unified Theater program, providing opportunities for students with disabilities to be onstage. Michaela got involved during the program's inaugural year at her school, and played a lead role in recruiting other students to participate, along with overseeing fundraising, advertising and scheduling.
Megan Roy, 17, of Westerly, R.I., a senior at Westerly High School, turned the 12-hour service requirement for her confirmation into a longtime commitment to volunteering, serving hundreds of hours over the past six years helping people in need. Megan found great personal satisfaction volunteering at the food pantry serving her small community, where she packages food in addition to lending a hand in the thrift shop area.
"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