OKLAHOMA CITY, May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Oklahoma's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Allie Beach, 18, of Tulsa and Justin Evers, 12, of Oklahoma City, 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, Allie and Justin – 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 Oklahoma'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 Allie and Justin Oklahoma'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, Allie and Justin 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
Allie (pictured left), a senior at Victory Christian School, helped her church create a ranch for children from low-income families and foster homes, after co-directing an annual summer camp for the past 11 years and helping to start a youth-run philanthropic pizza business. When Allie was 7, her church wanted to start a summer-long camp for children in need, but couldn't find an adult to serve as director. Allie quickly volunteered, and since then, she and a partner have led a 10-week camp that serves more than 100 kids each summer. In 2017, Allie worked with her church's nonprofit to establish a "pizza factory" to serve the homeless and teach kids life and business skills.
Recognizing that these youth could also benefit from a ranch experience, Allie and her team studied the operation of horse ranches in several states, raised funds through grants and fundraisers, found a five-acre property to rent, and recruited more than 120 volunteers from local high schools, colleges and churches. Then they built fences, prepared animal pens and began acquiring more than 100 rescue animals, including horses, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Now, nearly 200 young people a year spend time at the ranch, caring for the animals, doing chores and learning new skills. "The kids love the animals, and surprisingly love the ranch responsibilities," said Allie. "It is big-time, stress-relieving, confidence-building therapy they need." Allie and her church's YouthWorks nonprofit are now looking to buy a ranch so that they can continue to offer this experience to kids in need for years to come, she said.
Justin (pictured right), a sixth-grader at Classen Middle School of Advanced Studies, is an energetic advocate for children in Oklahoma, particularly those who are dealing with hunger, abuse or are in need of foster care. Growing up in a family that opened its home to foster children, Justin has had a close-up view of the problems that many young people face. "I've seen too many kids affected by the atrocities of hunger, abuse and poverty," he said. "I've felt their sadness and pain and longing for a family that cares." He decided that if he could share his experiences, he could make people in his state understand the importance of improving the lives of children in need.
When Justin learned that a pair of social services organizations, Sunbeam Family Services and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, were looking for a "Kid Governor" to help publicize these same issues, he jumped at the chance. He dug up statistics on child welfare in Oklahoma, made an application video, explained his interest in a panel interview, and was ultimately selected for the position. He then starred in four advocacy videos discussing education, hunger and foster care on social media; gave interviews to newspapers, magazines and TV stations; spoke at school and fundraising events; and lobbied government officials to prioritize children's issues. Since his term ended, Justin has continued to work on behalf of kids in need. He has planned, organized and led activities at two week-long summer camps, packed food for the hungry, sorted clothes for the homeless, collected gift cards for foster children and wrapped Christmas presents for girls living in public housing.
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.