Oklahoma's Top Youth Volunteers of 2021 Selected by National Program
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Muldrow and Newkirk students with a $2,500 scholarship, silver medallion and invitation to virtual celebration for their work addressing the challenges of a changing world
NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Savannah Gabrielle Gore, 17, of Muldrow and Hannah Cross, 14, of Newkirk today were named Oklahoma's top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America's largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.
As State Honorees, Savannah Gabrielle and Hannah will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program's virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America's top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.
"We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year," said Charles Lowrey, Prudential's chairman and CEO. "We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community's Class of 2021, and all the ways they're making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live."
These are Oklahoma's top youth volunteers of 2021:
High School State Honoree: Savannah Gabrielle Gore Nominated by Muldrow High School
Savannah Gabrielle, a senior at Muldrow High School, has raised almost $50,000 for veterans' causes over the past nine years by singing in more than 200 benefit concerts, selling CDs of her Christmas songs, and producing an annual holiday musical. Both of Savannah Gabrielle's grandfathers and several uncles served in the military, and one of her earliest memories is of singing to veterans. "I understood that their service changed their personality in deep and meaningful ways," she said. "I saw that they and their fellow veterans often retreated socially, spending time lost in thought and memories." But when Savannah Gabrielle would start singing, they would clap and sing along. "I knew I had a talent that I could use for good," she said, so she created a foundation called "Healing Heroes' Hearts."
At first, Savannah Gabrielle says, running her foundation was easy: She would call a local nursing home or VFW, schedule a date to sing, practice her songs, and then show up to perform. But the work increased as her desire to make an impact grew. She began recruiting volunteers to distribute fliers promoting her shows, sell tickets, design stage sets, and sometimes, even act in her musicals. She also started a website to sell T-shirts and her CDs to benefit veterans and raise awareness of the trauma they often face after returning from active duty. Since she began, Savannah Gabrielle has raised funds to place wreaths on veterans' gravestones, renovate a local veterans' theatre, expand a crowded veterans' cemetery, and purchase new computer monitors, furniture and televisions for a nonprofit that helps veterans adjust to civilian life. She estimates that her efforts have reached 2,300 individuals and 16,000 families annually, and involved more than 550 local volunteers.
Middle Level State Honoree: Hannah Cross Nominated by Newkirk Go-Getters 4-H Club
Hannah, an eighth-grader at Oklahoma State College Prep, spearheaded a project to turn the foliage-covered side of an historic building at the entrance to her town into a colorful mural depicting the history and sights of the area. Hannah is proud of her town. She used to live in a suburb with no Main Street or historic district, she said, but now lives only a block away from "stunning historical buildings." But one of the oldest buildings, a 1915 structure, was "an eyesore" seen by more than 6,000 people driving through town each day on Highway 77. Hannah wanted to do something about that.
She obtained permission of the building's owner to beautify its exterior, recruited more than 40 volunteers, negotiated a discount with the local Lowe's for supplies, and borrowed scaffolding from a friend. Volunteers first used chainsaws and tractors to remove the trees and bushes that covered the building's side. After that was cleared, Hannah used a putty knife to scrap out the roots that had dug into the brick wall's grout. When the surface was ready, volunteers spray painted the wall. Then, six local professional artists, paired with students, transferred their rough designs to the wall. After over 220 volunteer hours, the 12-by-25-foot mural was completed with scenes that include a covered wagon, an American flag, an historic bank building, and school logos. "I hope this bright, friendly mural will be a greeting into Newkirk for the next 30 years," said Hannah. "Main Street is truly a tremendous treasure and a legacy for the next generation; it is our responsibility to protect and promote it."
State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President's Volunteer Service Awards.
"It speaks volumes about the character of today's secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need," said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. "While we're especially proud to celebrate this year's 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who's found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give."
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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 http://nassp.org.