WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Nevada's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Pranit Nanda, 17, of Reno and Athena Morales, 13, of Las Vegas, 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. Pranit and Athena – 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 Pranit and Athena Nevada'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.
Pranit, a junior at Davidson Academy, started a geography club two years ago to give elementary and middle school students in Reno a better understanding of the world we live in. While preparing to compete in the National Geographic Bee, Pranit realized how little students actually learn in school about geography. "Geography is not taught in depth," he said. "My geographic knowledge has given me significant context for understanding current events. I wanted to share my passion and knowledge." So, Pranit decided to start a club called, "Young Geo Explorers," to increase students' interest and knowledge of the world.
He introduced his concept to an after-school program at a local elementary school. He found resources online to help in creating lesson plans and began leading regular club sessions at the school. Once that initial club was up and running, Pranit expanded his program to a middle school, a second elementary school and a Boys & Girls Club program. During that time, he has continued to improve his lesson plans with the help of a geographic information company, and utilized educational items such as maps, globes and puzzles donated by the Geography Alliance in Nevada. Pranit also created a website to reach out to individuals who might want to start clubs in their own communities. Over the past two years, more than 100 students in Reno have gained a deeper understanding of the world by attending Pranit's club sessions.
Athena, a seventh-grader at Explore Knowledge Academy Charter Secondary, developed a STEM-based educational patch program for the Girl Scouts and plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the patches to install two filtered water fountains with bottle-filling stations in her community. As a Brownie, Athena learned about the importance of water resources in her city, the declining water level in Lake Mead, and the trash created by used plastic water bottles. "Living in the Mojave Desert, water is a very important resource in our community," she said. After participating in a trash cleanup at a wetlands park and seeing the large number of discarded plastic bottles, Athena and her troop decided to use money from cookie sales to purchase refillable water bottles.
But then they ran into the problem of running out of water, both at their Girl Scout house and on walks in a local nature preserve. So, Athena decided she would try to raise enough money to install water fountains at the Girl Scout facility, as well as at the nature preserve. She came up with the idea of developing a series of patches that Girl Scouts could earn by performing specific science-related educational activities. After creating the requirements and materials needed by participants to earn each patch, Athena designed the patches and then sent out requests for quotes from embroidery companies. She hopes that the sale of her patches, along with the other fundraising activities, will generate sufficient funds to complete her water project.
"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 Nevada'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