JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Missouri's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Abigail Mueller, 16, of St. Louis and Elizabeth Ravasini, 14, of Lee's Summit, 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, Abigail and Elizabeth – 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 Missouri'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 Abigail and Elizabeth Missouri'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, Abigail and Elizabeth 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
Abigail (pictured left), a junior at Whitfield School, created a self-image education and mentoring program that includes live presentations, an educational website, volunteering for Girls on the Run, and writing articles for an internet safety organization about being authentic on social media. One day, Abbie heard a friend complain about looking fat. "It dawned on me that I was guilty of using that kind of self-defeating language, too, as I struggled with my own weight and self-image," she said. As she embarked on a daily exercise and nutrition regimen, Abbie realized she also needed "to drop the negative internal and external talk." Her change in attitude had so many positive effects on her life that Abbie decided to use her personal experience to help others.
For the past four years, Abbie has been developing and managing a program she calls "Self-ValYOU: Promoting Positive Personal Imagery." She has spoken to elementary and middle school classes, adult support groups and Girl Scout troops, using a PowerPoint presentation and distributing bookmarks she designed with reminders about positive self- and body-image tools. She created a website featuring a blog and interviews discussing body and self-image. She also volunteers to help with Girls on the Run, a national organization focused on boosting the confidence of young girls, by helping with paperwork, fundraising and personal mentoring. In addition, Abbie has contributed four articles about social media authenticity to the website of Smart Gen Society, which encourages young people to make smart decisions online. She's committed, she said, to giving people "the tools they need to turn around negative self-talk into positive self-image."
Elizabeth (pictured right), an eighth-grader at Bernard Campbell Middle School, recruits family members, friends, fellow 4-Hers and other students to give monthly musical performances at local nursing homes. As a young girl, Elizabeth frequently visited her grandmother and great-grandmothers in their nursing homes with her family. "I still remember how excited all the residents would get when my siblings and I would visit," she said. That memory came back to Elizabeth when she was researching a topic for school about what was important to her and could result in a better world. Because music is a big part of her life, Elizabeth decided to research the impact of music on the elderly, and learned that "musical therapy can aid with stress reduction, relaxation and socialization," she said.
Elizabeth began visiting local nursing homes once a month to sing, dance, play instruments, read poetry and provide other forms of entertainment for residents. She creates fliers to invite interested students, encourages them to sign up online and works out logistics with nursing home staff. Then she develops an agenda for each event, prepares song sheets, and ensures that microphones and a piano are available. "I have been amazed by the overwhelming excitement and support I have received," she said. During intermission at the events, Elizabeth and her fellow performers visit with audience members and hand out small gifts and snacks. "The senior citizens' faces are filled with joy when we perform," she said, "and my peers feel more connected to older generations."
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.