ST. PAUL, Minn., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Minnesota's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Grace Myler, 18, of Shakopee and Addison Loerzel, 14, of Moorhead, 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, Grace and Addison – 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 Minnesota'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 Grace and Addison Minnesota'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, Grace and Addison 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
Grace (pictured left), a senior at Shakopee High School, worked with her mother to start a nonprofit boutique that since 2016 has hosted more than 1,000 shopping appointments for teenage girls in need from across Minnesota, providing them with over $250,000 worth of donated new clothing, shoes, accessories and personal care items at no charge. When Grace was 10 years old, she heard about a teenager in California who had started a nonprofit called "Threads for Teens" that enables girls to pick out new, stylish clothes that they otherwise could never afford. Grace contacted the California teen for help in starting her own program. Three years later, the girl helped her launch her own nonprofit.
Initially, Threads for Teens Minnesota hosted two pop-up events to provide back-to-school clothes for girls from low-income or foster homes. It soon became apparent that a permanent space would make it possible to help more girls, so Grace and her mom searched for a permanent home. After almost a year of rejections, they finally secured space in a school district office building. Much of Grace's time is spent raising money and finding clothing companies to donate clothing in all sizes. She also works with county social workers and school districts to identify girls in need who could benefit from the self-esteem and confidence boost that can come from new clothes. Clients typically visit the boutique three or four times a year, and take home apparel and other items worth an average of $250. "Many of our teens come into our boutique for the first time looking down and sad," said Grace. "But when they leave, you wouldn't believe the smiles on their faces!"
Addison (pictured right), an eighth-grader at Horizon Middle School-East, makes more than 3,000 cupcakes each year and sells them at a cupcake stand she has hosted since 2013, raising enough money to grant big wishes for eight children served by the Sunshine Foundation for kids facing serious challenges. Addison, who has a disability and is always delighted to show others that "I can accomplish anything I put my mind to," knows how difficult it is to spend so much time being poked and prodded at the doctor's office or hospital. Her dream was to visit Disney World, a wish that was fulfilled by the Sunshine Foundation. "My dream coming true made my heart so happy," Addison said. "That is why I host a cupcake stand each year. I want all kids with disabilities to feel the power of a dream come true."
Each year, to get ready for the big day, Addison contacts local businesses for support and gives interviews to local media. Then she spends two long days baking her cupcakes with the help of friends. On the day of her sale, fellow volunteers dressed as Disney princesses deliver pre-orders in the morning, and a stand is set up in a parking lot for walk-in purchases in the afternoon. All of the proceeds go to the Sunshine Foundation to grant wishes for children who are dealing with chronic or serious illness, disability or the effects of abuse. "I know from firsthand experience that a dream come true can be life-changing," said Addison. "It brings you so many positive memories that it can get you through the toughest of times."
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.