LITTLE ROCK, Ark., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Arkansas' top two youth volunteers of 2020, Emmaline Landes, 17, of El Dorado and Braden Lisowe, 12, of Benton, were recognized this weekend for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Emmaline and Braden – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – were also each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Arkansas' top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Emmaline and Braden Arkansas' top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
"Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?"
As State Honorees, Emmaline and Braden also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program's annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration this past weekend. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
"We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them," said Bartoletti. "At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives."
About the Honorees
Emmaline (pictured left), a senior at El Dorado High School, has raised more than $16,000 since 2013 for nonprofit agencies and various causes by selling or donating more than 300 pieces of her original artwork. At age 11, Emmaline began painting portraits of animals at a local shelter, which were then auctioned at the shelter's annual ball. When the first one sold for $500, "I realized I could make a difference through my artwork," she said. Working mainly with acrylics on canvas, she started making paintings for other nonprofits in her community, and later formed a nonprofit called "Heartworks" in memory of her grandmother, who died of ALS in 2016.
Proceeds from the sale of Emmaline's paintings have gone to address a wide range of causes she cares about, including child abuse, homelessness, animal adoption, hunger, affordable healthcare and art education. She also has used her art to help peers in need. Emmaline's first art show raised funds to cover travel costs for a friend receiving medical care, to buy personal care items for a peer whose family is affected by AIDS and to supply weekend meals for kids who don't have enough to eat at home. A second art show generated funds to purchase medical supplies and equipment for people with ALS and other debilitating diseases. In addition, Emmaline has created a series of paintings of fetal ultrasound images, which are being donated to purchase baby supplies and clothing for peers who become pregnant in high school. "It is my hope that my work reflects the joy I feel from helping others," she said.
Braden (pictured right), a sixth-grader at Bryant Middle School, has provided more than 2,000 meals for clients of the Arkansas Food Bank by cooking and selling ready-to-eat meals out of his kitchen and donating the proceeds. "I've always been interested in cooking," explained Braden. "I began cooking ready-to-eat meals for friends and family to raise money to go to camp, and quickly realized that I could use my new skills to help others." He knew about the food bank from volunteering there with his mother and decided that feeding the hungry was something he could do.
Each week, Braden plans a meal with a main dish and two sides and solicits orders on a "Braden's Bites" Facebook page managed by his mother. With as many as 10-12 orders a week, he shops for ingredients, prepares the meals in his home kitchen with help from his sister, and arranges delivery. In addition to the proceeds that he donates to the food bank, Braden donates a meal to someone in need for every five meals he sells. His meal sales have also enabled him to purchase 50 sleeping bags for people experiencing homelessness after severe flooding destroyed their encampment. He also has donated meals on Mother's Day to mothers who have lost children, to veterans on Veterans Day, to people who are ill or recovering from surgery, to foster parents and first responders, and to others. "I'm really lucky that my family has never had to worry about where our next meal came from," said Braden, "but being able to raise funds so that others don't have to feels really good."
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
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 25 years, the program has honored more than 130,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com. For more information about the National Association of Secondary School Principals, visit www.nassp.org. For more information about Prudential Financial, visit www.news.prudential.com.
Learn more at spirit.prudential.com
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.