NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Gitanjali Rao, 15, of Lone Tree and Lindsay List, 13, of Englewood today were named Colorado's top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America's largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.
As State Honorees, Gitanjali and Lindsay will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program's virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America's top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.
"We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year," said Charles Lowrey, Prudential's chairman and CEO. "We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community's Class of 2021, and all the ways they're making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live."
These are Colorado's top youth volunteers of 2021:
High School State Honoree: Gitanjali Rao
Nominated by STEM School Highlands Ranch
Gitanjali, a sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch, has reached more than 30,000 students around the world, encouraging younger generations to think creatively about confronting the world's big challenges by leading online workshops where she shares the unique problem-solving methodology she created. Gitanjali is a scientist whose creations include devices to detect lead in water and diagnose opioid addiction. She also has pioneered technology to discourage cyber bullying. While working on these projects, she came up with her own process for guiding an idea from concept to reality. She started sharing this process with elementary students at her school, and received such positive feedback from the kids, parents and teachers that she realized she could take it to students beyond her school "to inspire them to create their own creative solutions to world problems," she said.
Gitanjali organized her process into an easy-to-understand format, documented it, and created a workshop curriculum with lesson plans and resources for research labs, contests and mentorships. Then she began working with schools, after-school camps, gifted-student programs, girls' STEM groups, and eventually, international organizations to hold workshops for students around the world. She currently holds 2-3 sessions a week, each attended by about 150 students. "The vision is to introduce innovation tools and techniques earlier in our education, so that everybody is thinking about using science as a catalyst for social impact and change," she said.
Middle Level State Honoree: Lindsay List
Nominated by West Middle School
Lindsay, an eighth-grader at West Middle School, collected well over 1,000 books in her community for her local Jewish Family Services (JFS) agency and her school district to help kids and others improve their reading skills. Partly because of a reading disability, Lindsay appreciates that reading is a "big part of life," and that all children need access to books to become good readers. Moreover, "I am passionate about helping people," said Lindsay. That was the impetus behind a book donation project called "Lindsay's Library," launched in late 2019.
Lindsay began her project by sending emails to friends and family members to appeal for book donations, posting a notice in her temple's newspaper, and placing a collection box at the temple. For three months she gathered donations and purchased additional books to stock the shelves of a JFS library, delivering about 50 books a month. "Kids were the focus," said Lindsay, "but I collected books for all ages, including people that had trouble reading English." But when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted her work for JFS, Lindsay found she could donate books to her school district instead. After collecting more books, she wore a mask and gloves while wiping down each one to minimize the risk of spreading germs and repackaged them in new boxes for delivery to the Cherry Creek School District.
State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President's Volunteer Service Awards.
"It speaks volumes about the character of today's secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need," said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. "While we're especially proud to celebrate this year's 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who's found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give."
To read the names and stories of all of this year's State Honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial wellness leader and premier active global investment manager, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees help to make lives better by creating financial opportunity for more people. Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit news.prudential.com.
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 http://nassp.org.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.