CHEYENNE, Wyo., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Rhett Pimentel, 17, of Powell and Grace Estes, 14, of Farson today were named Wyoming'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, Rhett and Grace 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 Wyoming's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Rhett Pimentel
Nominated by Powell High School in Powell
Rhett, a junior at Powell High School, played a major role in founding the "Powell Makerspace," a high-tech community workshop to give students and other residents of his small town the opportunity to learn about and use modern technology. Rhett, a self-described tech enthusiast, used to "drool" over articles and videos on sophisticated technology such as 3D printers, laser cutters and advanced robotics, "all amazing tools that I would probably never get to see," he said. But after attending a tech fair in Denver and talking with his middle and high school tech teachers, Rhett became convinced that his town should and could have a new resource for technology utilization and education. "Technology was progressing rapidly," he said, "and Powell couldn't fall behind."
Rhett, local educators and other community members agreed to create a "makerspace," a place where people can work together with modern technological equipment to design and create things that they couldn't make on their own. Rhett conducted extensive research on the equipment and tools that the proposed facility should have, worked with others to draw up plans for its operation, and made presentations to solicit donations and forge partnerships. After the Powell Makerspace opened last February in a cottage donated by the local school district, Rhett devoted considerable time to assembling and learning about the new facility's equipment, and designed and taught classes to educate others. "I am proud to say that even though Powell is small and isolated, community members have access to a plethora of amazing technology at the Powell Makerspace," he said.
Middle Level State Honoree: Grace Estes
Nominated by Farson-Eden Middle School in Farson
Grace, an eighth-grader at Farson-Eden Middle School, volunteered as a tutor at her school's summer program last year. When she heard that a teacher she knew needed help with a summer reading program, Grace was quick to volunteer. "I live near the school and I asked her how I could help," she said. "I wanted to help the kids learn to read."
Grace worked during all 16 days of the summer session. Her job was to tutor all of the students in math and reading, read books to the younger students, and help older kids sound out words as they read aloud. She also helped a Spanish-speaking student with math problems. By the end of the session, she had assisted three teachers, and all 22 of the students Grace tutored had met their summer reading goals. Tutoring, Grace said, actually improved her own math and reading skills. She plans to continue as a summer school tutor throughout high school. "I learned that I like to help people," Grace said.
The program judges also recognized two other Wyoming students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wyoming's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Sadie Gruntmeir, 18, of Buffalo, Wyo., a senior at Buffalo High School, volunteers two hours a week working with a young child through Peer Helpers, a school program that pairs elementary school children with high school role models. After seeing the positive impact the program had on some of her classmates in elementary school, Sadie signed up as a mentor in her junior year, and has worked with two children to help them succeed academically and gain confidence.
Liam Guille, 17, of Cheyenne, Wyo., a senior at Cheyenne East High School, led an effort with his Interact Club that raised $3,300 to fund a needed heart surgery for Lily, a young girl living in the Beijing orphanage where his younger adopted brother had lived. After hearing about Lily from his parents, Liam mobilized his club to conduct a variety of fundraisers, personally conducted a raffle that raised $400, and collected donations from members of the local Rotary club.
"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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SOURCE Prudential Insurance