WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Kentucky's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Anna-Maria Beck, 17 and Andrew Dunn, 14, both of Louisville, 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. Anna- Maria and Andrew – 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 Anna-Maria and Andrew Kentucky'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.
Anna-Maria, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, has responded to a fierce struggle with brain cancer by raising money and awareness for the benefit of other young cancer patients. When Anna-Maria was 7 years old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that necessitated eight rounds of chemotherapy and more than a dozen surgeries. While sitting for hours in the chemo clinic during treatment, Anna-Maria said she began thinking about how she could make a positive difference for the other patients she saw there. "Sitting as a patient in a hard, uncomfortable chair, my emotions and ideas overwhelmed and prompted me to take action," she said.
Since she loved baking and sweets, Anna-Maria decided to hold a bake sale at her school. Joined by friends, schoolmates and family members, she spent a whole week baking and raised $8,000 in a single day for a pediatric oncology clinic. Subsequent sales more than doubled that amount. In 2014, she shared her story at the Norton Children's Hospital's annual fundraising dinner, which raised nearly $400,000 for the hospital. Recently, Anna-Maria traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of young cancer patients, and has recruited a third of her school's student body to participate in a dance marathon that will raise money for clinic needs and research.
Andrew, an eighth-grader at Barret Traditional Middle School, started a citywide campaign to mobilize students and other community members to perform random acts of kindness throughout the year. Andrew got the idea four years ago when his parents set up an Advent calendar that challenged him to do something nice for someone every day in December. He came up with ideas such as anonymously leaving donuts for neighbors. "This got me thinking about the impact we could have if I could get all my friends involved," Andrew said.
Calling his campaign RAK Louisville ("Random Acts of Kindness"), he set up a website, app and social media offering ideas on how to make a positive difference in someone's day, and talked to friends, classmates, neighbors and his soccer team about his project. Andrew worked with the mayor's office to have December 23 proclaimed as Random Acts of Kindness Louisville Day, and two TV stations interviewed him. Today, he and the RAK Club at his school identify student-friendly service opportunities throughout the year and mobilize individuals and teams to work on a variety of projects, many of which benefit organizations serving homeless and other people in need. One of their bigger projects was organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for 168 homeless people. Andrew said he hopes RAK will expand beyond Louisville's borders. "People want to serve but they just don't know how to start," he said.
"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 Kentucky'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