WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Virginia's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Lucia Hoerr, 17, of Charlottesville and Shishir Sriramoju, 14, of Ashburn, 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. Lucia and Shishir – 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 Lucia and Shishir Virginia'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.
Lucia, a junior at St. Anne's-Belfield School, makes it easier for children in need to start the school year off right by giving them new backpacks filled with school supplies. Even as a very young girl, Lucia helped people in need by donating a portion of her allowance to local charities. She wanted to do more, but most volunteer organizations said she wasn't old enough. Then one day seven years ago, when she was shopping for school supplies with her mother, "she told me to be grateful because many kids in our community started each school year without a backpack or school supplies because their family couldn't afford them," said Lucia. "The idea of a peer going into the first day of school unprepared baffled me, and I knew I needed to help."
She called a local Boys & Girls Club to see if the kids there needed backpacks and school supplies. The director said he could use 58 backpacks, so Lucia enlisted the help of family and friends and began working to meet that request. Since that first year, Lucia has invested hundreds of hours in what is now a nonprofit organization called "Backpack Buddies." She has held fundraisers to buy supplies, organized school collection drives, and promoted her efforts through fliers, a website, social media and interviews with the press. Each summer, about 30 volunteers attend a "celebration" to help Lucia pack her backpacks and deliver them. So far, Lucia's project has provided almost 1,500 supply-filled backpacks for kids whose families cannot afford the financial burden of buying school supplies.
Shishir, an eighth-grader at Stone Hill Middle School, started a summer chess club to introduce this challenging game to elementary school students, and concurrently raised $1,500 for various charities. A passionate and talented chess player, Shishir was asked by an elementary student, "What is so great about chess?" "To this I responded, chess is a game that sharpens the most important organ in our body, the brain," said Shishir. When the boy said he wished he could learn to play, Shishir got the idea to start a club for young kids in his neighborhood to expose them to the pleasures and benefits of chess.
Shishir developed lesson plans, gathered game boards and pieces, and set aside three hours a week over the past two summers to teach students to play chess. One problem he encountered was that every student had a different way of learning and interpreting what was being taught. Shishir said he learned which children simply needed information repeated and which ones needed him to teach at a slower pace. During the second summer of the club, he also found it facilitated learning if he separated the advanced students from the beginners.
Through his club, Shishir raised $1,500 for charities such as the World Health Organization, the Red Cross and Children's National Hospital, and for the purchase of additional chessboards for his middle school's chess club. "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 Virginia'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