LANSING, Mich., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Alyssa Ewell, 18, of Canton and Abigail Diuble, 13, of Manchester today were named Michigan's top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Alyssa and Abigail each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2018.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Michigan's top youth volunteers of 2018:
High School State Honoree: Alyssa Ewell Nominated by Canton High School in Canton
Alyssa, a senior at Canton High School, was student coordinator of her school district's Relay for Life last year, which raised $30,000 for the American Cancer Society. With her grandmother battling pancreatic cancer, Alyssa had a very personal reason to assume this leadership role when a teacher asked her to take the job. "She had seen my work last year raising $12,000 to grant a wish for a young girl through the Make-A-Wish Foundation," said Alyssa. "She exhorted me to become a general in the war against cancer."
After meeting with Michigan's Relay for Life coordinator to set up a plan, Alyssa recruited students to help and began delegating tasks. She took steps to involve more than 20 schools in her school district, made flyers to get the word out to the community, assembled resource kits to help her leadership team of students coordinate activities during the event, and held an "advertising" day to pitch the project to potential donors and sponsors in the business community. In addition to running the actual relay walk, Alyssa and her team planned a "Spirit Week" at her school, trick-or-treating for little kids, a faculty "kiss the pig" fundraiser, a lip-sync competition, a cancer survivor walk, a raffle, and a luminaria ceremony. "While a considerable amount of money was raised, the most rewarding part of this experience was learning I could be a catalyst for action," said Alyssa.
Middle Level State Honoree: Abigail Diuble Nominated by Manchester Middle & High School in Manchester
Abigail, an eighth-grader at Manchester Middle School, is working to purchase specialized alarm systems to alert visually- and hearing-impaired people to severe weather conditions and dangerous smoke and carbon monoxide levels. In June 2015, a tornado struck Abby's home in the middle of the night. Her older sister, who is both visually and hearing impaired, barely made it to safety. "My sister was very hard to wake because she does not wear her hearing aids to bed," said Abby. "She made it to the basement stairs literally the second the tornado struck." Although Abby has been raising money with her family since she was a kindergartner to combat blindness, she was so shaken by her sister's close call that she wanted to do something to prevent this from happening to others.
With the help of her mother, Abby found an alarm system that connects a weather radio and smoke and CO2 detectors to a bed-shaking device and strobe light, designed to rouse the hearing and visually impaired from their beds when disaster is imminent. She and her family formed a nonprofit so they could accept tax-deductible donations and apply for grants. To publicize her project, Abby built a website, spoke to groups about her mission, and gained the support of area fire chiefs and school district officials. So far, her project has raised $20,000 to purchase alarms, which cost more than $250 apiece. "My goal is to get an alarm system to every kid that needs it," said Abby.
The program judges also recognized eight other Michigan students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Michigan's Distinguished Finalists for 2018:
Giovanni Basanese, 16, of Iron Mountain, Mich., a sophomore at Iron Mountain High School, is an active volunteer with his local VA medical center, working on projects from planning the first-ever employee benefit fair to creating a student-geared web page about volunteer and career opportunities. Giovanni was the first student to pilot a self-paced volunteer program built around his other commitments, and his work inspired other departments to request similar student service programs.
Amanda Coy, 17, of Saline, Mich., a senior at Saline High School, is a dedicated advocate for other people with asthma, serving as board secretary and youth spokesperson for the Michigan chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and personally raising $13,000 for the chapter through a series of fundraisers. Amanda has also spoken at the state capitol and met with legislators to discuss asthma education and prevention.
Allison Heath, 17, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School, developed a program that offers music-loaded iPod shuffles to 1,500 patients a month at a Detroit cancer institute, providing comfort and distraction during treatments. A long-time volunteer and student researcher with the institute, Allison also developed a behavioral study to measure the impact of music on cancer treatment.
Desiree Herrst, 14, of Bellaire, Mich., a freshman at Central Lake High School, is an active volunteer with the Magic Yarn Project, donating 30 handmade yarn wigs styled after Disney characters for kids undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Inspired to act by the death of a young family friend, Desiree has also recruited volunteer support from her church, setting up wig workshops and soliciting donations of yarn.
Jensen Hwa, 17, of West Bloomfield, Mich., a senior at West Bloomfield High School, has provided critical volunteer web support to several local organizations, from implementing a new donation system for the Greater West Bloomfield Community Coalition to building a tool that told people whether they live within his school district's boundaries. Jensen also developed and taught several hands-on computer science classes for younger students.
Caitlin Jodway, 17, of Westland, Mich., a senior at Franklin High School, organized a swim-a-thon that drew more than 100 swimmers and raised $24,000 to help a student with muscular dystrophy buy a wheelchair-accessible van. Caitlin then worked with her teammates to deliver leftover food from the event to feed more than 40 men and women living on the streets of Detroit.
Grace Kendziorski, 17, of Auburn, Mich., a senior at Bay City Western High School, has volunteered every summer since she was 12 with a YWCA camp for children with special needs, guiding and supporting young campers as they learned new skills. Inspired to volunteer by her sister, who was born with spina bifida, Grace has also recruited other high school students to volunteer at the camp.
Tyler Watt, 17, of Saginaw, Mich., a senior at Swan Valley High School, has volunteered for nearly 10 years with the Public Libraries of Saginaw's annual summer reading program, encouraging patrons young and old to keep up with their reading during the summer months and offering prizes for doing so. Tyler helped the program run smoothly by providing administrative support and customer service.
"Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same."
"These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they've served – they also set an important example for their peers," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "These honorees prove that you're never too young to make a difference."
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States' largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital's landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On April 30, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2018. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 120,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China, Brazil and Poland. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President's Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. 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. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.
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