WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Utah's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Rebekah Reno, 17, of Orem and Kara Hughes, 13, of Bountiful, 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. Rebekah and Kara – 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 Rebekah and Kara Utah'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.
Rebekah, a senior at Freedom Preparatory Academy, mentored five younger girls last summer as a counselor at the Utah Valley University's "LeadHERship" Conference. As an active member of her school's student council, Rebekah was delighted when organizers asked her to participate in the conference, which was designed to empower young girls as they progress in their education. "This was the first year it was offered by UVU; this meant that being part of the first group of counselors, we set a precedent for the coming years of the program," Rebekah said.
She and her fellow counselors attended training sessions the weekend before the weeklong conference. Then she and a partner were placed in charge of five girls, ranging in age from 11 to 13. As a counselor, Rebekah helped the girls through each day's activities and encouraged them to develop their strengths, abilities and talents. At the end of each day, the counselors reviewed with the girls what they had learned, including confidence-building, teamwork, etiquette, and public speaking. On the last day of the conference parents were invited to hear about the progress their daughters had made. "I know that my girls left empowered and excited as they looked forward to entering junior high," she said.
Kara, an eighth-grader at Bountiful Junior High School, arranged for a group of musicians and actors with special needs to perform monthly at a local convalescent hospital. For the past two years, Kara has volunteered at a nearby theater with a group that teaches music and acting skills to people with disabilities, and then produces two plays a year to showcase their talents. Kara had noticed how much the budding actors loved performing and thought it was a shame they were limited to only two performances a year. Then she had an idea. "There is a convalescent hospital in our community and I knew the patients liked visitors, so I thought this would be the perfect place for them to share their talents and, in doing so, serve the patients at the hospital," Kara said.
She met with the director of the theater group to get her permission and then brought her idea to the hospital's recreation specialist. Once she had the go-ahead to begin her "Friend to Friend Outreach," Kara contacted the performers, sent out emails to parents about her plan, scheduled weekly rehearsals, and recruited other coaches to help. Kara said she will never forget a mute woman with Down syndrome who actually started singing out loud during a performance. "To see the smile on her face and the tears on her mom's face was so cool," Kara said. She is currently investigating other performing opportunities for her group.
"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 Utah's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance