BOISE, Idaho, May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Idaho's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Lilian Smith, 17, of Coeur d'Alene and Kaleb Chatelain, 14, of Ammon, 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, Lilian and Kaleb – 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 Idaho'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 Lilian and Kaleb Idaho'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, Lilian and Kaleb 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
Lilian (pictured left), a junior at Coeur d'Alene High School, co-founded a nonprofit that has organized competitive math teams and/or peer mentoring math programs at 13 local schools over the past three years. When Lilian was in fifth grade, she joined a math team and loved it. But "I knew that many kids in my community, especially at schools that serve low-income families, did not have this opportunity," she said. So three years ago, Lilian outlined a program that could encourage kids to have fun with STEM subjects while improving their math and critical thinking skills.
First, she persuaded the principal of a local elementary school to let her start an after-school math team. The team did so well that Lilian began forming competitive math teams at other elementary schools in her area, recruiting middle and high school students who excel at math to coach grade school kids each week as they play math games, solve problems and learn new skills. Soon after, her nonprofit introduced a program in which older elementary students provide one-on-one mentoring to younger learners who need help or extra challenges in math. In addition to recruiting student coaches and mentors, securing funding and charting future plans, Lilian has been the head math coach at one school for the past two years. So far, more than 400 young students have benefited from Lilian's "Growing the STEM" organization. "The most memorable part of this experience is the time I get to spend with kids each week and getting to see the light bulb go off when they learn something new," Lilian said.
Kaleb (pictured right), an eighth-grader at Sandcreek Middle School, collected cash, gifts and supplies last fall for a charity that provides physical therapy to children with disabilities–children like Kaleb's 3-year-old cousin, who was born with a gene mutation that has made her unable to speak or hold her body upright. "She brings joy to everyone she sees and is so lovable," said Kaleb. "I wanted to do something for her and people like her." So Kaleb contacted the Now I Can Foundation in Provo, Utah, to see how he could be of service.
They suggested that he provide gifts for patients' families, and cited a need for basic materials such as toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies. With the help of some friends, Kaleb distributed flyers around his community to solicit contributions. Two weeks later, he gathered all of the donations. "I was so excited to see an entire room stocked with donated supplies, gifts and cash donations of almost $300," said Kaleb. He and his family then sorted the goods and loaded them into his parents' car for the 250-mile trip to Provo. As a result, Christmas gifts brightened the holiday of families with children with disabilities, supplies were replenished at a place to stay for families who travel far from home to get treatment for their children, and money was available to offset the cost of therapy. "The foundation was thrilled with the success of our project," said Kaleb. "It felt great to help a great organization!"
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.