ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Helena Zimmerman, 16, of Purchase and Hailey Richman, 10, of Long Island City today were named New York'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, Helena and Hailey 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 New York's top youth volunteers of 2018:
High School State Honoree: Helena Zimmerman
Nominated by Rye Country Day School in Rye
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 in-person tutoring near after-school programs, offer homework help online to struggling students, and in some cases, teach an entrepreneurial baking class that enables young people to learn about business math, marketing, graphic design and social responsibility.
Middle Level State Honoree: Hailey Richman
Nominated by Points of Light
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 program judges also recognized eight other New York students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are New York's Distinguished Finalists for 2018:
Riley Damiano, 16, of Patterson, N.Y., a sophomore at Wooster School, has raised more than $6,000 for pediatric cancer research through her "Blue Lollipop Project," donating a blue lollipop to a hospitalized child for every dollar donated to her cause. Inspired by the story of a local boy who died from cancer and loved blue lollipops, Riley has partnered with nine hospitals to distribute the candy, and donated proceeds to a foundation the boy's parents started in his memory.
James Fallon, 16, of Armonk, N.Y., a sophomore at Pomfret School, has been an active volunteer for seven years with a foundation that supports kids in need in New York and around the world, and recently led a drive that collected enough money and books to start a library at a school in Rwanda. James volunteers hundreds of hours a year on school supply initiatives through the foundation, and has also served meals at a nearby Ronald McDonald House.
Supriya Makam, 17, of Newburgh, N.Y., a senior at Newburgh Free Academy, has mobilized more than 100 volunteers to help foster a love of learning in local kids through "Educate Without Borders," the nonprofit she started in 2013. In addition to organizing book collections, learning activities and other events through her nonprofit, Supriya has conducted extensive research on the use of a leading opioid addiction treatment in her county and the barriers to access.
Domonique Malcolm, 17, of Carthage, N.Y., a senior at Carthage High School, co-founded a nonprofit that has led several mission trips to help an impoverished community in Jamaica, and recently took the lead on coordinating a trip that mobilized 29 volunteers to build two new houses and offer medical and dental support at a local clinic. Over the past four years, Domonique has also helped provide the community with support including groceries and computers for students.
Madeline Mastriano, 17, of Stony Brook, N.Y., a senior at Ward Melville High School, has helped to raise $37,000 for the Stony Brook Children's Hospital over the past five years by running a lemonade stand with her brother – an event that recently attracted more than 100 student volunteers and 25 business supporters to help with the cause. Madeline and her brother have grown the event from a small stand to a community tradition with features including games and entertainment.
Zoe Perles, 17, of East Northport, N.Y., a senior at Northport High School, co-founded an annual Halloween bake sale that has raised nearly $12,000 over the past 12 years for the Northport Food Pantry. Zoe, who publicizes the sale through media and community outreach and manages a group of more than 30 student volunteers for the event, has also served the community as a Relay for Life team captain, a camp counselor at a local historical society and more.
Bailey Walter, 17, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., a junior at North Tonawanda High School, has volunteered since fourth grade to raise awareness of spinal muscular atrophy and money for a cure, supporting the cause through efforts ranging from bracelet sales to public outreach to campaigning to "light the world purple." Inspired by her best friend, who has the disease, Bailey now spends at least 25 hours a month contacting people to solicit donations and support.
Shelby Walter, 12, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., a sixth-grader at Drake Elementary School, has collected enough school supplies to fill more than 200 backpacks for kids in need over the past two years, and donates items to the supply closet at school to ensure that students and teachers have what they need. Shelby has solicited donations from her church, community and businesses, and donated backpacks for area schools and an overseas church mission.
"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.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.
For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media
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