RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Victoria Kosinski, 18, of Kinston and Caleb Lumpkin, 13, of Winston-Salem today were named North Carolina's top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Victoria and Caleb each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May 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 2017.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are North Carolina's top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Victoria Kosinski
Nominated by Girl Scouts North Carolina Coastal Pines in Raleigh
Victoria, a senior at Kinston High School, taught a self-defense course and coordinated the renovation of a new domestic violence shelter in her community as part of her multi-faceted program to empower women and educate the public about domestic violence. Victoria was volunteering to help the homeless when she met the director of a local domestic violence program. "She told me about the needs of women who were victims of DV," she said. "She shared that many DV survivors become homeless, so I made the decision to develop a program to serve these women."
Victoria, the holder of a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, began by teaching unarmed self-defense skills to 60 women, using a PowerPoint presentation that included information on domestic violence and what to do when faced with an armed intruder. After learning that a building had been donated to the United Way, Victoria volunteered to lead a renovation project and turn it into an 18-bed facility for women and children fleeing abuse. She reached out to the community for donations of beds, appliances, clothing, food and other items through flyers, social media, and interviews with the press. She also rallied volunteers and secured the donation of major landscaping and construction services from a hardware store. The new facility opened last fall.
Middle Level State Honoree: Caleb Lumpkin
Nominated by Winston Salem Christian School
Caleb, an eighth-grader at Winston Salem Christian School, is a volunteer facilitator of a book club that teaches and encourages people with intellectual disabilities to read. A couple of years ago, while performing in a community musical, Caleb befriended a man with Down syndrome. "He is one of the nicest people I have ever met and we formed a close bond," said Caleb. After the show was over, the man's mother told Caleb about the Next Chapter Book Club, a nonprofit organization that sponsors community book groups for adolescents and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other intellectual disabilities. She asked Caleb if he would be interested in becoming a facilitator.
After training to lead a group, Caleb began meeting with five or more adults of varying reading abilities on Sundays. Typically, Caleb's group each week reads two to five chapters of books designed for early readers. "When they get to read a story and sound out words by themselves, the joy on their faces is indescribable," said Caleb. When the readers finish a book, the club has a party to celebrate their accomplishment. "I have learned to never judge a book by its cover," said Caleb. "All people are special and no one should be judged or experience discrimination ... and everyone deserves to hear or read a good book!"
The program judges also recognized six other North Carolina students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are North Carolina's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
William Baldwin, 18, of Fletcher, N.C., a member of Buncombe County 4-H and a senior at A. C. Reynolds High School, led an effort that turned a grassy area at the Lord's Acre community garden into a permaculture garden with grapevines, mulberry trees and more, offering a self-sufficient resource to the community that also provides fresh produce for people in need. After doing some research, William secured donations of mulch and plants and recruited eight volunteers to help bring his concept to life.
Grace Ferebee, 17, of Shawboro, N.C., a senior at Ferebee Homeschool, knits hats to cheer up other young patients at The Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk. Grace took on the project to keep busy while undergoing hospital treatments and being homebound, and to brighten the days of other sick kids; she has saved up money and used coupons to buy materials for the hats, and delivers the finished products to the hospital's volunteer services office when she visits for appointments.
Hannah Scanlon, 17, of Raleigh, N.C., a senior at Millbrook High School, founded "Music is Instrumental," a program that works to enhance the music education of local students by running the North Raleigh Honor Band for middle schoolers and providing related service opportunities for its high school mentors. Hannah wanted to provide local kids with music opportunities as robust as the ones in her old hometown, and has since provided dozens of middle and high school musicians with opportunities to learn and grow.
Patterson Sheehan, 18, of Raleigh, N.C., a senior at St. David's School, has raised money to travel on service trips to Ethiopia, Guatemala and Rwanda, where she provided services ranging from childcare to building a roof of a school. Patterson, who developed a stronger sense of community after her family adopted a young boy from Ethiopia, has also volunteered to coach the middle school boys soccer team at her school.
James Willett, 16, of Asheboro, N.C., a junior at Asheboro High School, built a demonstration teaching garden focused on the native grasses of North Carolina's Central Piedmont area, and created an educational brochure with details about the native grasses. James's project aims to raise awareness about incorporating native plants – which don't require watering and fertilizing like other popular plants - into landscaping and farming, to help reduce the amount of fertilizer and nitrogen washing into local streams.
Tina Y, 14, of Charlotte, N.C., a freshman at Myers Park High School, has volunteered for the past five years providing support to refugee assistance efforts as a way of giving back to the agencies that helped her and her family when they came to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was 3 years old. Tina regularly volunteers with a Wednesday refugee help center by watching children and distributing fresh vegetables; she also lends a hand with special events, and has served as a "refugee spokesperson" for media opportunities.
"Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities."
"These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it's a privilege to celebrate their work," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students."
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 HandsOn Network affiliates, 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 May 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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 and Brazil. 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 Association of Student Councils. 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
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/north-carolinas-top-youth-volunteers-of-2017-selected-by-national-program-300401245.html
SOURCE Prudential Insurance