WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Paloma Rambana, 12, of Tallahassee, Fla., was named one of America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2018 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's 23rd annual national award ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Paloma has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Alexandria Brady-Mine, 18, of Gainesville. Paloma and Alexandria were named Florida's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2018 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
Paloma, a seventh-grader at Maclay School, lobbied legislators, led rallies, gave speeches, created a website and generated media publicity to help secure $1.25 million in state funding for visually impaired children between the ages of 6 and 13. Paloma, who has a congenital eye condition that gives her fuzzy vision, uses a video magnifier to help her read and see around her classroom. But when her magnifier broke, she wasn't able to get another one because visually impaired kids in her age group don't get state aid for training and equipment outside of school, she said. "It's important that kids like me have the tools they need to be successful in school."
Paloma met with dozens of state legislators, her governor and congressmen to explain the situation, organized two rallies in Tallahassee and made T-shirts for the attendees, and spoke to many groups about the issue. She also wrote an op-ed piece for her local newspaper, set up a website, and recorded a radio public service announcement. Her "Fund the Gap" campaign began to pay off when Florida's governor signed off on $1.25 million in funding, with almost half of that continuing each year. "Sometimes I get upset because I can't see as well as other kids," said Paloma, "but then I think about how so many other kids can't see as well as I do, and I want to help them."
Alexandria, a senior at F.W. Buchholz High School, founded nonprofit organizations to educate people around the world about human rights issues and to provide assistance to senior citizens in her community. She also is an executive director of an international nonprofit dedicated to promoting acceptance, defying stereotypes and defeating hate. Her two grandmothers were the inspiration for her volunteer work, said Alexandria. One was a single mother who fought to educate her children after fleeing Haiti; the other was an educator who developed Alzheimer's disease.
When her maternal grandmother began to forget her family, "it became important for me to carry on her legacy of helping others," said Alexandria. "I decided the best way to honor her would be through helping the elderly." She began performing simple tasks for a small group of seniors, such as cooking, washing dishes and taking care of pets. Later, she introduced various technologies to help them feel less isolated and communicate more easily with family and friends. Alexandria's second nonprofit, "The Human Projects," is addressing and raising awareness of human rights issues through initiatives including two mentorship programs and a virtual reality curriculum for high school and college students. As executive director of another organization, "Redefy," Alexandria manages an international team of more than 100 student volunteers and arranges grant funding to promote social justice and positive perspectives through school workshops and online media.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
"These honorees exemplify something we've known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it's a privilege to celebrate their service."
"Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference," said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. "We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers."
In addition to Paloma, these are the other 2018 National Honorees:
Tabitha Bell, 18, of Sandy, Utah, a senior at Waterford School, has raised more than $115,000 through her nonprofit, "Pawsitive Pawsibilities," to provide nine service dogs to people who otherwise could not afford one.
Rosie Colucci, 13, of Palatine, Ill., an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other donations for hospitalized kids, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund research for a cure for childhood cancer.
Grayson Phillips, 18, of Gardendale, Ala., a senior at Essential Church School, organized a fishing tournament and a fundraising dinner/auction, and collected donations at outdoor expos, to provide seven children and young adults with disabilities with all-terrain power wheelchairs that allow them to safely navigate the great outdoors with their peers.
Michelle Qin, 17, of Santa Barbara, Calif., a junior at Dos Pueblos High School, is the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 100 students in California, New Jersey and British Columbia who work to empower girls and women around the world, focused on education, poverty and health.
Hailey Richman, 10, of Long Island City, N.Y., 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.
Madison Strempek, 13, of Crofton, Md., a seventh-grader at Crofton Middle School, wrote and self-published a 46-page book, Everyone Makes Mistakes, to reassure and comfort children, like her, who have an incarcerated parent.
Brandon Warren, 18, of Indianapolis, Ind., a senior at Warren Central High School, organized a citywide peace march and community day in Indianapolis to stand against youth violence, following the murder of a friend and fellow football player.
William Winslow, 12, of Raleigh, N.C., a sixth-grader at Daniels Magnet Middle School, fights childhood hunger in his community by holding food drives to fill backpacks with weekend food for children who otherwise might go hungry, and by helping to build school gardens in neighborhoods where access to fresh food is limited.
Helena Zimmerman, 16, of Purchase, N.Y., 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.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Kelley of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; Anna Drenning, a national headquarters volunteer recruiter with the American Red Cross; Natalye Paquin, chief executive officer of Points of Light; Kirsten Perry, a school counselor at Lawndale Community Academy in Chicago, Ill. and the American School Counselor Association's 2018 School Counselor of the Year; Frederick J. Riley, national director of urban and youth development at YMCA of the USA; Tony Shivers, a member of the National PTA Board of Directors; Rhonda Taylor, director of partnerships and program engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Will Waidelich, executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); and two 2017 National Honorees: Amal Bhatnagar, a freshman at University of California-Berkeley, and Katie Eder, a senior at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wis.
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network.
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 23 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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 www.nassp.org.
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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media
For B-roll of Florida's honorees at the 2018 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or [email protected].
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.