WASHINGTON, May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The District of Columbia's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Zayd Ali, 18 and Mary Temam, 14, 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, Zayd and Mary – 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 the District of Columbia's 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 Zayd and Mary the District of Columbia's 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, Zayd and Mary also earned an invitation to several days of national recognition events in Washington, D.C.; the events, however, were 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
Zayd (pictured left), a senior at Sidwell Friends School, founded a group at his school that has partnered with several organizations to arrange a variety of soccer events for hundreds of refugee children over the past few years. Zayd, an avid soccer player and fan, got into an intense discussion about the sport with a Brazilian Uber driver in 2016, and ended up learning about the man's life, family and faith. "If I could learn so much about one person through our shared love of soccer," Zayd wondered, "how could I harness this power in my own community to bring people together who usually don't get the chance to interact?"
The answer to his question was "OnSide," an initiative that uses soccer to help young refugees connect with others and adapt to their new surroundings. Zayd recruited fellow high school students to form a board and then began seeking partnerships that could help accomplish his mission. So far, OnSide has worked to organize soccer scrimmages, summer camp soccer clinics, a soccer tournament and outings to professional soccer games for refugee youth from Ethiopia, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. To fund its activities, Zayd's group sells specially designed shirts that celebrate the drive and determination of refugees and counter the perception that they only bring terror and crime. Zayd is now recruiting and training new project leaders to take over when he graduates and is planning to continue his efforts in college. "OnSide has made coming to a new country easier and more fun for hundreds of refugee youth by connecting them to friends in their new environment through a sport they love," said Zayd.
Mary (pictured right), an eighth-grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, has taken on several community service activities to brighten the lives of people at home and abroad, including a project where she sent more than 200 books plus a variety of school supplies to orphans and refugees in Kenya. "Reading is my passion and joy and I have a desire to share it," especially with kids in need, said Mary. When she learned about a school in Mombasa with very few supplies and reading materials, she resolved to assist the children there.
Mary decided to donate most of the books from her own personal library, and then used her savings to buy more. She also purchased and collected backpacks, pencils, crayons, bookmarks, erasers and notebooks for the African students. She said that she felt it was particularly important to send books "to show the kids in Kenya that there is more than one way to view the world and that anything is possible when you open a book." The young recipients were so delighted by the books that they sent Mary a letter of appreciation, along with magnets with Swahili phrases. Closer to home, Mary has participated in cleaning up the trash along the Anacostia River and made sandwiches for the homeless. Also, after attending two weeks of STEM camps this summer, she used her new knowledge to teach residents of senior homes about managing bill payments, and the impact of saving water and recycling on the environment. "I was inspired by my mother to spread love and cheer," said Mary. "I have learned the value of volunteering and service to others."
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.