RALEIGH, N.C., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- North Carolina's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Brooke Chow, 17, of Raleigh and Za'nia Stinson, 13, of Charlotte, 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, Brooke and Za'nia – 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 North Carolina'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 Brooke and Za'nia North Carolina'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, Brooke and Za'nia 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
Brooke (pictured left), a senior at Enloe Magnet High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $12,000 to buy classroom supplies for cash-strapped schools in North Carolina by holding bake sales. When she entered high school, Brooke immediately noticed the scarcity of many basic school supplies, and discovered that public school teachers often have to buy these items with their own money. "The strain on resources was an obstacle that made it just that much harder for teachers to focus on students," she said. Brooke started bringing tissue boxes and unused notebooks from home, but "I knew a longer term solution would be needed." So Brooke and a friend asked a bakery if they could resell its banana nut bread and other baked goods at an open-air market at the state fairgrounds.
Now known as the "Banana Nut Scholars," Brooke and her partner prepare for their bake sales by securing space, ordering and packaging bread, printing labels, making posters and fliers, and designing ads. They also ring doorbells and send emails to solicit donations. With the money raised, they make a wide range of classroom supplies available to any North Carolina teacher through their website, including pencils and pens, paper products, staplers, notebooks, batteries, rulers and hand sanitizers. So far, 55 volunteers have helped distribute over 60,000 items to nearly 600 teachers. In addition, Brooke's nonprofit has provided thousands of sanitary napkins, tampons and undergarments directly to students in need. Brooke also has contacted more than 300 national and state legislators to lobby for increased funding for public education, and is advocating for related provisions in the state's upcoming budgets.
Za'nia (pictured right), a seventh-grader at Mountain Island Day Community Charter School, has provided thousands of food and toiletry items to women and children staying at a local shelter and to people living on the streets. One day, Za'nia saw a woman and her two children begging for food in front of a supermarket. "I knew what it was like to be hungry, and it made me sad," said Za'nia, who at one time had lived in a shelter with her grandmother. She asked her foster mother for money to help the woman, who cried when she received it. "This brought tears to my eyes," said Za'nia.
Soon after, she applied for a service grant to launch her "Z Feeds Angel Food Project." With the grant money in hand, she began shopping for nonperishable food items. She also asked supermarkets for donations and solicited toiletries from local doctors' offices. Then, with the help of family members and other volunteers, Za'nia packed her collected items into gallon-size "Go-Go" bags, along with booklets of inspirational readings "to let the receivers know that life will get better," she said. When the packing is done, Za'nia and her helpers deliver the bags to a women and children's shelter. "I always carry extra bags with me and distribute them when I see people on the streets who are hungry and need food to eat," she said. So far, Za'nia has distributed more than 625 bags containing over 4,000 food items and more than 3,000 toiletries.
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.