DES MOINES, Iowa, May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Iowa's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Augustus Ehlers, 16, of Edgewood and Lilliana Tracy, 12, of Bellevue, 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, Augustus and Lilliana – 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 Iowa'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 Augustus and Lilliana Iowa'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, Augustus and Lilliana 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
Augustus (pictured left), a member of Clayton County 4-H and a junior at Edgewood-Colesburg High School, coordinated and managed the fabrication of more than 350 steel gates for animal pens at the county fairgrounds, saving the fair board in his small county more than $60,000. As part of its plans to build a new swine and sheep barn at the fairgrounds, the Clayton County Fair board solicited bids from local livestock equipment companies to build animal pens and gates for the new barn. But "the bids were coming in high," said Augustus, noting that the fair has a small budget. "I thought we could take the expenses and make them a little bit smaller."
Augustus researched the project, and then asked a local welding shop owner to quote a price for the required steel. He figured he could do the welding, aided by other volunteers. He put together a budget, presented his plan at a few fair board meetings, and submitted a formal bid. It was accepted. When the steel for the project was ready, Augustus recruited dozens of volunteers from his 4-H club and Boy Scout troop, and began welding together 5- to 10-foot gates. The whole process took almost a year to complete, and it ended up costing less than half of the next lowest bid. Augustus' project will ensure that "livestock shown in the barn will have safe and humane pens and gating," he said, and "thousands of fair-goers, exhibitors, parents and spectators will benefit for years to come."
Lilliana (pictured right), a sixth-grader at Marquette High School, makes regular visits to a local nursing home to cheer up residents and make them feel a little less lonely. Every Christmas, there's a Christmas tree in her community with the names of people confined to their homes and nursing-home residents. In 2017, Lilliana picked the name of a woman at Mill Valley Nursing Home and visited her throughout the holiday season. "But I wanted to visit her more than just during the Christmas season," she said, "so I have been visiting her every other month for the last two years." Lilliana enjoyed the visits so much that she selected the name of another woman at the nursing home the following year, and now visits her as well.
During her visits, Lilliana chats with her new friends, plays games such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman, watches Chicago Cubs baseball games on TV, and plays songs for them on her trumpet. Sometimes she brings her little sister with her. "Now she wants to go with me all the time," said Lilliana. It's difficult finding the time outside of school and extracurricular activities for her visits, but "I can't even imagine what it would be like to be lonely," she said. "It is a joy for them to get visitors, and it is a joy for me to see them happy."
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.