WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Alabama's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Elizabeth Lipp, 16, of Mountain Brook and Louise Adair, 13, of Tuscaloosa, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Elizabeth and Louise – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Elizabeth and Louise Alabama's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Elizabeth, a junior at Mountain Brook High School, is co-president of a club that brings special education students together with her school's general student body to improve social skills and foster friendships and a respect for differences. Since junior high school, Elizabeth has been involved in outreach programs for special education students. So when she got to high school, she immediately gravitated toward a service club called "Circle of Friends" that sought to help students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers get to know each other and feel more comfortable in social situations. "It was a dying club," said Elizabeth. "I fought endlessly to revive interest from the student body."
With the support of her school's administration, Elizabeth organized a "Circle of Friends Celebration Week" to honor teachers and students in the special education department. For the celebration, she and her volunteers solicited donations from local businesses, persuaded community members to donate meals, and organized special events. She then began running monthly breakfast socials for club members and special education students, and revived a "buddy" program that pairs students for weekly lunches, field trips, and after- school activities such as bowling and baseball. "Our club has allowed typical students to see differently-abled peers as friends," Elizabeth said.
Louise, a seventh-grader at Tuscaloosa Academy, traveled on a mission trip with her family to North Carolina twice in the past two years to assist refugees from numerous countries by cooking, cleaning and helping with their children. Louise learned about One7, a faith-based organization in Charlotte that provides transitional housing, mentoring and tutoring for refugees, when a representative spoke to her congregation. "I knew people who had gone and said it was amazing," said Louise. "This was important to me to help others who have lost everything."
On her mission trip, Louise spent part of her time cleaning a local high school, and cleaning and setting up apartments that serve as temporary housing for newly arrived refugees. She also helped distribute food, clothing and other essentials; prepare meals; tutor young students after school; and take care of babies. The most difficult part, Louise said, was the language barrier. "Most of the refugees spoke different languages and very little English," she explained. If given the opportunity, she said, she would love to go back. "I learned about what people have gone through. Not everyone has a bed to sleep in at night and food to eat for dinner. It taught me to be thankful for what I have," said Louise.
"These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers."
"It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year's program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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.
Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Alabama's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance