WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Ohio's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Adam Sella, 18, of Cincinnati and Mackenzie Lewis, 10, of Columbus, 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. Adam and Mackenzie – 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 Adam and Mackenzie Ohio'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.
Adam, a senior at Walnut Hills High School, founded a club at his school to aid refugees in the Cincinnati area and raise awareness of the world's growing refugee crisis through projects that include collection drives, a tutoring program, and events to fund college scholarships. After spending six weeks in Morocco studying Arabic, Adam returned home just as the Syrian refugee crisis was unfolding. Adam said he could easily relate to the plight of these refugees because he is Jewish and had relatives who were displaced after World War II. Seeking to help, he immediately contacted a local mosque and refugee resettlement agencies. "I thought my Arabic language skills made me uniquely well-suited to aid refugees, so I was surprised and disappointed when they told me I was too young or that someone would get back to me – but nobody did," Adam said.
Not to be deterred, Adam founded his club, "Students Together Assisting Refugees" (STAR). He and fellow club members invited two Bhutanese refugees to share their heart-wrenching stories at a school assembly, organized a public screening of a movie about Sudanese refugees to raise money for refugee scholarships, conducted a community drive that collected 750 household items for 266 refugee families, and began tutoring refugee children at a local elementary school. Adam also created a website and used media interviews to gain more visibility. His club's biggest project so far was last fall's benefit chamber concert that featured members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and raised more than $25,000 in scholarship funds. Adam's efforts have inspired students in six other states to start STAR chapters in their communities.
Mackenzie, a fifth-grader at Berwick Alternative K-8 School, conducted two community drives that collected 1,350 cases of bottled water and more than 300 gallon water jugs for people dealing with unsafe tap water in Flint, Mich. After hearing news stories about Flint's contaminated water supply, Mackenzie felt she had to do something to help. "I wanted people in Flint to have clean water," she said. "It wasn't fair that their water makes them sick and gives them rashes."
After obtaining permission to store water at her church, Mackenzie challenged members of the church and other churches to contribute. She made fliers and dropped them around town, and began contacting individuals and businesses for donations. After Mackenzie collected 1,200 cases of bottled water and 300 gallon jugs, she and 12 other youth volunteers from her church rode in a donated truck to Flint, where they handed out water at a church and gave the rest to a school and after-school program. Mackenzie then asked kids at several summer youth programs and camps to bring water donations to an advocacy festival that she organized, which featured music, food, games, prizes and a raffle. Afterwards, Mackenzie made another trip to Flint, delivering 150 additional cases of water and 20 jugs to residents of two apartment complexes.
"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 Ohio'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