WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Louisiana's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Anna Katherine Tollett, 16, of Ruston and Zach Morgan, 12, of Denham Springs, 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 Katherine and Zach – 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 Katherine and Zach Louisiana'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 Katherine, a junior at Cedar Creek School, has worked tirelessly over the past eight years on behalf of kids who, like her, suffer from Type 1 diabetes, raising funds to find a cure, enhancing public awareness of the disease, campaigning for legal rights and protections for students with diabetes, and providing support to newly diagnosed children and their families. "When I was first diagnosed, the daily demands of managing this relentless disease combined with the often-misinformed public perception of diabetes left me feeling overwhelmed and alienated," said Anna Katherine. But "because of the support and guidance of family, friends and community, I became determined to reach out to those living with diabetes, and challenge the public perception of the disease."
The day after she left the hospital, Anna Katherine participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual fundraising walk, and in subsequent years led a team of her own. With help from her father, she shot a 30-second public service announcement about diabetes, which won the top prize in a national contest and has been seen by more than 16,000 viewers. In 2012, Anna Katherine helped successfully lobby her state legislature to make it easier for kids to manage their diabetes at school, and also took part in a lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., in 2011 and 2012 with the American Diabetes Association that secured millions of dollars for diabetes research. She also helped start a foundation that aids kids and their families immediately following a new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.
Zach, a sixth-grader at Live Oak Middle School, collected more than 5,000 hats and 2,000 toys for kids with cancer, and secured a grant to fund a weeklong summer camp for children with the disease. It all started when Zach saw a TV commercial about childhood cancer. "I felt bad for kids who had cancer," he said. "I felt bad that it changed their childhood. I wanted to make them feel better."
Since he already liked to collect baseball caps, Zach decided to begin collecting them for kids who lose their hair to chemotherapy. He received 250 new caps and hats in his first drive at a local Walmart store, and then threw a pizza party at a local children's hospital to hand them out. Subsequent drives have yielded thousands of additional hats, which have gone to kids across the country. "I have learned that even the smallest things – like a baseball cap – can put the biggest smile on a kid," said Zach. He also distributes toys through "Treasure Chests of Courage" that he has placed at several cancer treatment facilities. To date, Zach has mobilized more than 2,000 students in several states to help kids with cancer. He has also hosted events that have generated more than 1,000 pounds of food for students at local schools who have little to eat on weekends.
"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 Louisiana'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