South Dakota's Top Youth Volunteers of 2021 Selected by National Program
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Aberdeen and Sioux Falls 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/ -- Jordan Phillips, 16, of Aberdeen and North Neff, 11 of Sioux Falls, today were named South Dakota'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, Jordan and North 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 South Dakota's top youth volunteers of 2021:
High School State Honoree: Jordan Phillips Nominated by Aberdeen Central High School
Jordan, a junior at Aberdeen Central High School, has raised more than $110,000 to support women with breast cancer by sewing and selling fabric coffee-cup sleeves known as "cozys." Jordan's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015. "I was terrified I was going to lose my mom," she said. "I needed an escape from the chaos of having a loved one who is sick, and I wanted to support other people who were going through what my family was experiencing." Since she had been sewing things since she was 5, Jordan started sewing cozys in her bedroom after school, and then offered them on Facebook to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
As word about Jordan's "Cozys for the Cure" project spread via news and social media, she had to recruit family members, friends and schoolmates to meet the growing demand. Her cross country team pitched in with an assembly line that produced 200 cozys in one hour. Things really took off when a large retail chain agreed to stock 250,000 of Jordan's coffee-cup sleeves in more than a thousand stores across the country, which required Jordan to outsource production to an apparel company. In addition to supporting the Susan G. Komen Foundation's breast cancer research, Jordan's fundraising has paid for free mammograms in rural, underserved areas. Jordan was especially touched when someone gave out her cozys as a wedding favor to honor the legacy of a mother who died of breast cancer. It was then that "I realized the deep emotional impact of this project," she said.
Middle Level State Honoree: North Neff Nominated by his home school
North, a home-schooled fifth-grader, has raised money and managed collection efforts that have provided more than $5,000 worth of food, vaccines and other essential items for shelter animals at a local Humane Society shelter, primarily by making and selling thousands of decorated dog bones. When he was 5 years old, North accompanied his family on a visit to the shelter. "I noticed that there were so many animals and I wanted to do something to help them," he said. He also noticed hand-dipped dog bones on the counter for sale, and upon learning that they were made by volunteers to support the shelter, he decided that he could do that, too.
With his family's support, North made and decorated his own hand-dipped dog bones for each dog in the shelter and delivered them in mid-February along with valentines. His treats were so well-received that he decided to make his dog bones every month and decorate them to reflect the season, in an effort to raise money for the Humane Society. He recruited family members, friends and fellow 4-Hers to help make the bones, and then to help collect items on the Humane Society's wish list. The animal shelter now conducts an annual Valentine's Day fundraiser as a result of North's initial contribution. "It is always an amazing feeling to know that something I made is making the animals and the people who love them so happy," said North.
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.