WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Connecticut's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Isha Dalal, 17 and Rachel Weintraub, 13, both of Trumbull, 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. Isha and Rachel – 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 Isha and Rachel Connecticut'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.
Isha, a senior at Trumbull High School, founded an organization of 60 students from across Connecticut called "Voice" that seeks to propose and promote state legislation addressing educational inequality and other important issues. A self-described "book nerd," Isha began volunteering two years ago at a local literacy center and quickly saw that many children did not have the educational opportunities she took for granted. One little boy told her his mother worked three jobs and struggled to get him extra help with reading. "That's when I decided I would do everything in my power to provide equal opportunities in education for all students," she said.
Isha envisioned an organization in which students could share opinions and ideas about a variety of societal problems, and then work to advance legislative solutions in the state capital. The group has focused initially on increasing childhood literacy rates in Connecticut by organizing legislative workshops, lobbying state officials, and conducting book drives and reading events, and has proposed a law to the education committee focused on an early intervention program. Isha sees her group tackling other issues in the future, including cyberbullying and school climate.
Rachel, an eighth-grader at Hillcrest Middle School, started an anti-bullying initiative to draw attention to the plight of bullied children in her community through speeches, special events, and the arts. Like so many kids today, Rachel was once the victim of a bully. "I didn't know what to do," she said. "But I came to find out that many of my friends had been bullied as well." Rachel wanted to put a stop to this kind of behavior at school and give voice to all students who are afraid to talk about what is happening to them, so she came up with the "Words Can Soar" initiative.
Rachel began by speaking in classrooms about the issue. She then created flyers and recruited volunteers to help spread the word, organized anti-bullying events, solicited corporate donations, painted an anti-bullying mural at her school, and even wrote a song about bullying. Her biggest event was a cabaret in New York City that featured fellow Broadway actors and raised more than $5,000 for anti-bullying efforts. In addition, Rachel has made public service announcements denouncing bullying, sought coverage by news media, and appeared at numerous venues to raise awareness and funds to fight this pervasive problem.
"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
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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Connecticut's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance