WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- North Dakota's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Nidhi Mahale, 17, of Fargo and Annabelle Barcomb, 14, of Minot, 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. Nidhi and Annabelle – 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 Nidhi and Annabelle North Dakota'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.
Nidhi, a junior at Davies High School, launched a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $16,000 to improve the lives of children, by making and selling tutus, capes and hair accessories for little kids, and soliciting donations from individuals and businesses. On a family trip to India three years ago, Nidhi visited an orphanage where 16 HIV-positive girls lived. "This visit was transformative for me," she said. "I realized how blessed I was in my own life and how much I take for granted on a daily basis." She came home determined to become a catalyst for change and, with the help of her parents, founded "Project Cute."
Nidhi recruited two friends to join her effort, and together they came up with a plan to make tutus, superhero capes and hair accessories, and then sell them to generate money for charity. Over the past two years, the girls have set up booths to sell their products at more than 20 vendor shows and, with donations added in, have collected in excess of $16,000. Most of the money has gone to a wide variety of charities that aid children facing challenging circumstances, and some has been used to sponsor five orphans at the Mumbai orphanage that originally sparked Nidhi's desire to take action. Nidhi and her colleagues also have donated some of their products directly to a pediatric hospital. And recently, Project Cute has donated educational toys and materials to Gigi's Playhouse Fargo, an outdoor playset to the local YWCA and a water filtration system to the orphanage in India.
Annabelle, an eighth-grader at Erik Ramstad Middle School, volunteers to help children and adults with special needs play baseball, and also coaches soccer for a Special Olympics team, to honor a cousin with a serious disability who died last year. She also worked up to eight hours a day every weekday last summer helping out at a local nursing home. Annabelle's cousin was born with a severe disability five years ago. "In the years I spent with him, I became very passionate about helping those with disabilities," Annabelle said. "When he died, I had to find some way to honor him."
She mentioned her interest in helping people with disabilities to her school counselor, who put Annabelle in touch with Dream Catchers, a program that teaches children and adults with special needs to play baseball. She enjoyed that program so much that she signed up to coach soccer for the North Dakota Special Olympics. Working with people with special needs was challenging but so rewarding, Annabelle said. "My goal for the season was to make sure at least one person was affected by something that I did in a positive way," she said. Annabelle plans to continue her work with athletes with special needs, and has recruited her best friend to become a Special Olympics coach, too.
"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 North Dakota'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