HARRISBURG, Pa., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Brendan Hung, 17, of Bryn Mawr and Savannah Zeaman, 13, of Warminster, 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, Brendan and Savannah – 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 Pennsylvania'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 Brendan and Savannah Pennsylvania'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, Brendan and Savannah 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
Brendan (pictured left), a junior at Radnor High School, founded a nonprofit organization that has delivered more than 7,000 "support kits" to homeless youth shelters, and campaigned to raise international awareness of youth homelessness, through chapters in eight states, England and Australia. While researching a school project on homelessness in the fifth grade, Brendan visited a local shelter and met a boy his age named Isaiah, who said his favorite things were socks. "I soon decided I wanted to collect socks and other useful items for Isaiah and other homeless kids," said Brendan. He asked friends, classmates and neighbors for help, and after a few weeks delivered 20 "support kits" to Isaiah's shelter. The joy of that experience, he said, "immediately sparked a new desire to help as many homeless kids as I could."
Brendan began recruiting volunteers from his school district to help him conduct donation drives to create more support kits. Schools, churches and businesses soon joined the effort. Meanwhile, Brendan formed a "Homeless Youth Project (HYP)" club at his school, created a website, and started speaking to student and community groups about the crisis of youth homelessness. Eventually, he persuaded friends in other states and countries to launch their own HYP chapters. In six years, Brendan's organization has collected nearly 75,000 items to distribute in his support kits, including gloves, hats, hand warmers, toiletries, snacks and, of course, socks. The kits also contain information on where to get help, as well as a handwritten note telling recipients that they are not alone in their struggle.
Savannah (pictured right), an eighth-grader at Klinger Middle School, operates a lemonade stand every fall that has raised nearly $6,000 for cancer research over the past six years. Savannah launched her project to honor the memory of her kindergarten teacher, who died of cancer. "She was an amazing teacher," said Savannah. "One day she was there, and the next she wasn't. It was the first time anyone I was close to had passed away."
She made lemonade, cookies and little magnet flower crafts, set up a stand in front of her house, posted signs around her neighborhood and started selling. The money she earned the first two years went to the American Cancer Society. Then, after a family friend died from cancer, Savannah began donating her annual proceeds to cancer research efforts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Last fall, she also conducted a clothing drive for families in need in conjunction with her lemonade stand to raise additional funds. Her goal every year is to raise more money than the last—a goal, she said, that requires a lot of promotion and effort. "I love the feeling of helping others," she said. "I have learned how many things I take for granted and how amazing it feels to share what I have with others."
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.