MADISON, Wis., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Sarah (Katie) Eder, 17, of Shorewood and Julianna Bauknecht, 11, of Bryant today were named Wisconsin's top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Katie and Julianna each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2017.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Wisconsin's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Katie Eder
Nominated by Shorewood High School in Shorewood
Katie, a junior at Shorewood High School, developed a creative writing workshop for children in need that is now being taught by almost 100 teens in six states and five other countries. Three years ago, Katie took a writing workshop that "changed my life," she said. It occurred to her that many kids, particularly those in underserved communities, have few opportunities to write creatively. "I knew I could either sit back and do nothing, or find a way for more kids to find their voice through writing," Katie said. So she decided to create "Kids Tales."
After designing a curriculum for kids 8 to 12 years old, Katie conducted her first two weeklong workshops during the summer of 2014 at a school and youth center. She helped 18 children brainstorm ideas for short stories, write rough drafts, and then edit their stories. At the end, she gathered the stories, published them as an anthology on Amazon and presented each student with a paper copy. The first workshops were so successful that Katie was soon training other teens who wanted to teach them. Last summer, 97 teen teachers conducted workshops for nearly 400 kids both in the U.S. and abroad. As executive director of the "Kids Tales" nonprofit organization, Katie recruits and trains teachers, raises funds, maintains a website and coordinates publishing activity – in addition to conducting her own workshops. Katie hopes to double the size of her organization this year.
Middle Level State Honoree: Julianna Bauknecht
Nominated by All Saints Catholic School in Antigo
Julianna, a sixth-grader at All Saints Catholic School, has raised almost $15,000 to care for abused and injured animals in Wisconsin through "Caring Paws," the nonprofit she founded when she was 10 years old. An animal lover since infancy, Julianna was watching the news one day and heard about a service dog that had fallen down a mountain while training. Even though she was only 5 at the time, she wanted to help the dog recover. Julianna held a rummage sale and raised almost $1,000 in one day for the injured dog's medical expenses.
As she got older, Julianna stepped up her fundraising activities. She held a new-item rummage sale and a raffle for the Langlade County Humane Society, which yielded $4,500 for the shelter and resulted in the adoption of several animals. Since then, she has launched a website and Facebook page to raise money, and has made numerous donations to care for abused or neglected animals. Most recently, she heard about a beagle that was hit by a vehicle and dragged for over a mile. Julianna solicited donated items from local businesses and held an online auction, which raised more than $4,000 for the dog's expenses. "I just really like helping animals," explained Julianna, "because it's true, the saying about a dog being a human's best friend."
The program judges also recognized six other Wisconsin students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wisconsin's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Meaghan Buckholdt, 15, of Wauwatosa, Wis., a sophomore at Pius Xi Catholic High School, is a leader with her school's community service club, recruiting other students to participate in service activities, sharing her love of volunteering, and creating a website template to help her school spread the word about service. Meaghan's service grew from her experience collecting money to make blankets for the homeless, inspired by a middle school field trip where she spent the night in the cold.
Claire Endres, 17, of Sauk City, Wis., a senior at Sauk Prairie High School, served as the co-chair of her National Honor Society's 2015 Giving Tree Week, helping to organize a spaghetti dinner, a raffle, concession stands and other events that raised $4,000 for the local chapter of Badger Honor Flight. In addition to raising money for the group, which flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments built in their honor, the weeklong event also collected children's books and toilet paper for a local food pantry.
Gabrielle Every, 18, of Suamico, Wis., a senior at Bay Port High School, worked with a partner to organize "Bay Port vs. Cancer," a charity football event with games and activities that raised more than $2,300 for the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund. The event, which also aimed to support children in the community who had experienced cancer, featured two local students who survived the disease and were given the opportunity to run out onto the field with the players.
Erin Keliher, 17, of Slinger, Wis., a senior at Slinger High School, has been an active volunteer through her student council for the past four years and played a key role in conducting a safe driving campaign that encouraged teens to wear seat belts and avoid distracted driving – an effort that earned her high school two $25,000 grants. Erin's other service activities include chairing a teacher appreciation committee and providing tours and cleaning services at the Ronald McDonald House.
Caragan Olles, 14, of De Pere, Wis., a freshman at Notre Dame De La Baie Academy, is the co-founder and co-president of "Bright Young Dyslexics," a nonprofit that funds tutoring and assistive technology for K-12 Wisconsin students with dyslexia, and has raised more than $45,000 for the cause and educated more than 2,000 people about the disorder. Caragan, who received many years of intensive tutoring to manage her own dyslexia, now leads a youth advisory board and has set up dyslexia resource centers at three public libraries.
Katie Pollock, 17, of Kenosha, Wis., a senior at Tremper High School, started "We Care Packs," a nonprofit that has sent more than 1,450 care packages over the past five years to soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Katie reaches out to businesses and organizations for care package items, holds packing parties at local establishments, and raises money for shipping through fundraisers including candy bar sales where she encourages people to sign greeting cards to send along with the package.
"Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities."
"These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it's a privilege to celebrate their work," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students."
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States' largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital's landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2017. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 115,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China and Brazil. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President's Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.
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.
For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media
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