WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Alexander Fultz, 13, of Pineville, North Carolina, was named one of America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2019 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's 24th annual national award ceremony at Union Station's East Hall. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Alexander has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for his school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of his choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Simona Adhikari, 17, of Charlotte. Alexander and Simona were named North Carolina's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2019 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
Alexander, an eighth-grader at Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, created a nonprofit organization that has donated thousands of toys and clothing items to hospitals in several states to brighten the days of hospitalized patients. While visiting his 1-year-old brother in the hospital eight years ago, Alexander was shocked to learn that most of the other kids there were too sick to go home for the holidays. "My favorite holiday was Christmas, so I thought of providing things to children in the hospital so they could have a happy Christmas," he said.
In the beginning, he used his allowance and birthday money to buy a couple of toys and brought them to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. "Even though it was small at the time, I knew I had made a difference in a few children's lives," he said, "so I continued." Over the following years, Alexander established a nonprofit organization called "Alexander's Toy Trunk, Inc." and began raising money to provide more and more gifts to young patients. He has set up stands to sell hot cocoa, cider, doughnuts, lemonade and cookies; spoken in front of classrooms to facilitate school collection drives; formed partnerships with local businesses; and solicited donations through social media and a website. Several years ago, Alexander began paying special attention to babies in neonatal intensive care units, which are often overlooked by donors. Since then, he has provided, at minimum, an outfit, a blanket, multiple books, a toy and a handmade cap to every infant in the NICUs of several hospitals.
Simona, a junior at Ardrey Kell High School, taught 24 girls in rural Nepal to make bracelets, and then sold them in the United States and United Kingdom to raise more than $6,000 for the girls and their small village. On a trip to Nepal with her mother four years ago, Simona spent some time in a school and witnessed the stark differences in the way many girls and boys are treated in that country. "In rural Nepal, more time, more money and more energy is placed on boys," she explained. "Many girls drop out of school by the 10th grade, marry young and start families, and end up having limited educational opportunities." Although she was only 12 at the time, Simona wanted to do something to help the girls she met at the school. "I felt that with just a little encouragement and instruction, that maybe I could somehow change the course of their lives, even if it was just by a little bit," she said.
Because she was very interested in jewelry, Simona organized a one-day session to show 24 girls how to make wrap bracelets with local beads and buttons. After she returned home, she arranged to have friends or family members who were traveling to Nepal bring back batches of bracelets made by the girls. Simona then sold them at conventions and found a vendor who agreed to sell them at craft fairs across the United States. Proceeds from the sale of 400 bracelets went back to the girls in Nepal, who used the money to pay for tutoring, invest in small businesses, contribute to their households or just save for the future. With a little extra profit, Simona bought solar lamps for a neighboring village in Nepal, created a school library and purchased a loom for women to make sweaters. "Not only was this project able to help the 24 young girls that I met initially, but it actually went on to help hundreds of others in the community," said Simona.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
In addition to Alexander, these are the other 2019 National Honorees:
Grace Beal, 17, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, a junior at Neshannock Senior High School, organized an annual basketball-based fundraising event that has raised more than $100,000 since 2014 for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where her sister was treated before she died of congenital heart failure.
Aja Capel, 15, of Urbana, Illinois, a member of Champaign County 4-H and a junior at Urbana High School, serves as the lead robotics instructor at a local science museum and has launched an initiative to give minority students more opportunities to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Samaia A. Goodrich, 11, of Syracuse, New York, a sixth-grader at Expeditionary Learning Middle School, organizes projects in her community to encourage inner-city youth to make a difference, including an effort to raise money to buy Christmas presents, clothes and household goods for families who moved from Puerto Rico to Syracuse after Hurricane Maria devastated their homeland.
Hannah Karanick, 13, of Anaheim, California, an eighth-grader at Orangeview Junior High School, established a "closet" at her former elementary school that provides new clothing, laundry products, toiletries, quilts and school supplies to students there whose families can't afford to buy such necessities.
Caleb Oh, 14, of Gambrills, Maryland, an eighth-grader at Crofton Middle School, has spent more than 1,000 hours volunteering in many ways over the past seven years to aid people who are homeless, hungry or have other needs.
Caragan Olles, 16, of De Pere, Wisconsin, a junior at Notre Dame Academy, co-founded a nonprofit organization in 2013 that has raised more than $160,000 to provide special tutoring for students with dyslexia, create dyslexia resource centers in three public library systems, and educate teachers and parents about this learning disability.
Vance Tomasi, 13, of Tampa, Florida, a seventh-grader at Farnell Middle School, has worked with a friend to collect and donate more than 90,000 books to families, schools, group homes, hospitals and libraries over the past two years.
Allison Tu, 17, of Louisville, Kentucky, a senior at duPont Manual High School, launched a youth-driven initiative to raise awareness of student mental health issues and find ways to combat the alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among young people in Kentucky.
Joseph Voynik, 17, of Flowood, Mississippi, a senior at Jackson Preparatory School, worked for four years and raised more than $600,000 to construct a fully accessible baseball field so that children with disabilities could experience the joy of playing America's national pastime.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Lowrey and included Handy of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; Heidi Brasher, senior director of product line cohorts, strategy and innovation at YMCA of the USA; Brian Coleman, department chair for the Jones College Prep counseling team in Chicago, Illinois and the American School Counselor Association's 2019 National School Counselor of the Year; Larissa Hatch, national youth engagement associate with the American Red Cross; Natalye Paquin, president and chief executive officer of Points of Light; Tony Shivers, a member representative with the National PTA Board of Directors; Rhonda Taylor, director of partnerships and program engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Will Waidelich, executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); and two 2018 National Honorees: Michelle Qin, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, California, and Helena Zimmerman, a senior at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York.
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to applyfor2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network.
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 24years, the program has honored more than 125,000youngvolunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at www.nassp.org.
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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 North Carolina's honorees at the 2019national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.