WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Helena Zimmerman, 16, of Purchase, N.Y. and Hailey Richman, 10, of Long Island City, N.Y., were named two of America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2018 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's 23rd annual national award ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Helena and Hailey have each earned the title of National Honoree, along with personal awards of $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Helena and Hailey were named New York's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2018 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
Helena, a junior at Rye Country Day School, co-founded a nonprofit organization three years ago that is currently giving more than 3,000 teens in 40 states the opportunity to experience meaningful volunteer work by teaching and tutoring kids in underserved communities. "As a child, I was fortunate to have engaged in terrific volunteer experiences with my parents," said Helena. But she later learned that many students are not as lucky.
"My peers are often relieved at having filled their 'dreaded' service requirements," she said. So she surveyed classmates and found that the problem wasn't that they didn't want to help; they just needed help finding rewarding volunteer opportunities. That was when she and a friend decided to start "TeensGive.org."
Their idea was to create a menu of options that allow prospective volunteers to provide academic enrichment to kids in after-school programs in underserved communities across the country. The pair drafted a business plan, built a website at TeensGive.org, and created marketing materials. They then reached out to nonprofits and after-school programs in low-income communities to form partnerships. To finance their endeavor, they won prize money in two competitions for new nonprofits and applied for grants. The teen volunteers in Helena's program provide free tutoring and enrichment to struggling students, both in person and online. Helena also created and teaches an entrepreneurial baking curriculum, "Counting Cupcakes," which enables young people to learn about business math, marketing, graphic design and social responsibility.
Hailey, a fifth-grader at Public School 78, has placed more than 10,000 jigsaw puzzles in nursing homes and other senior living facilities over the past three years, and created an online support group for kids around the world who have loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's disease. When Hailey was just 4 years old, her beloved grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. "She has been my best friend," said Hailey. "I realized how hard it must be to have a poor memory." Hailey began bringing a simple puzzle with her when she visited her grandmother's memory care facility. She noticed that not only was it something they could do together, but solving the puzzle made her grandmother happy.
It wasn't long before Hailey was setting up donation boxes in libraries, the post office and building lobbies in her neighborhood to collect jigsaw puzzles for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and memory care residences. She also recruited Girl Scout troops and other young people to visit the homes, where she paired each with an adult and gave them a puzzle to do together. For her efforts in distributing puzzles around the globe, Hailey was given a leadership role in a nonprofit organization called "Puzzles to Remember," and is now responsible for its Facebook page. Hailey also created a website at www.kidcaregivers.com to offer tips, ideas and support to kids dealing with an Alzheimer's patient in their families, reaching online audiences as far away as Saudi Arabia, Tibet and Sri Lanka. "There are wonderful ways you can spend time with someone who has Alzheimer's," she said. "You can still have a good time together, even when they are not doing well."
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
"These honorees exemplify something we've known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it's a privilege to celebrate their service."
"Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference," said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. "We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers."
In addition to Helena and Hailey, these are the other 2018 National Honorees:
Tabitha Bell, 18, of Sandy, Utah, a senior at Waterford School, has raised more than $115,000 through her nonprofit, "Pawsitive Pawsibilities," to provide nine service dogs to people who otherwise could not afford one.
Rosie Colucci, 13, of Palatine, Ill., an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other donations for hospitalized kids, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund research for a cure for childhood cancer.
Grayson Phillips, 18, of Gardendale, Ala., a senior at Essential Church School, organized a fishing tournament and a fundraising dinner/auction, and collected donations at outdoor expos, to provide seven children and young adults with disabilities with all-terrain power wheelchairs that allow them to safely navigate the great outdoors with their peers.
Michelle Qin, 17, of Santa Barbara, Calif., a junior at Dos Pueblos High School, is the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 100 students in California, New Jersey and British Columbia who work to empower girls and women around the world, focused on education, poverty and health.
Paloma Rambana, 12, of Tallahassee, Fla., a seventh-grader at Maclay School, lobbied legislators, led rallies, gave speeches, created a website and generated media publicity to help secure $1.25 million in state funding for visually impaired children between the ages of 6 and 13.
Madison Strempek, 13, of Crofton, Md., a seventh-grader at Crofton Middle School, wrote and self-published a 46-page book, Everyone Makes Mistakes, to reassure and comfort children, like her, who have an incarcerated parent.
Brandon Warren, 18, of Indianapolis, Ind., a senior at Warren Central High School, organized a citywide peace march and community day in Indianapolis to stand against youth violence, following the murder of a friend and fellow football player.
William Winslow, 12, of Raleigh, N.C., a sixth-grader at Daniels Magnet Middle School, fights childhood hunger in his community by holding food drives to fill backpacks with weekend food for children who otherwise might go hungry, and by helping to build school gardens in neighborhoods where access to fresh food is limited.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Kelley of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; Anna Drenning, a national headquarters volunteer recruiter with the American Red Cross; Natalye Paquin, chief executive officer of Points of Light; Kirsten Perry, a school counselor at Lawndale Community Academy in Chicago, Ill. and the American School Counselor Association's 2018 School Counselor of the Year; Frederick J. Riley, national director of urban and youth development at YMCA of the USA; Tony Shivers, a member of the National PTA Board of Directors; Rhonda Taylor, director of partnerships and program engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Will Waidelich, executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); and two 2017 National Honorees: Amal Bhatnagar, a freshman at University of California-Berkeley, and Katie Eder, a senior at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wis.
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network.
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 23 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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. Learn more at www.nassp.org.
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