NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Tennessee's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Katelyn Carpenter, 18, of Crossville and Lucy Blaylock, 11, of Gallatin, 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, Katelyn and Lucy – 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 Tennessee'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 Katelyn and Lucy Tennessee'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, Katelyn and Lucy 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
Katelyn (pictured left), a senior at Cumberland County High School, prepares care packages of canned and boxed meal items every weekend for more than 60 elementary school students who lack a reliable source of food at home. A few years ago, Katelyn ran into her former first-grade teacher, who was shopping for groceries for one of her students. The teacher told Katelyn that this was not uncommon; most elementary school teachers she knew had spent their own money to feed students. "I was shocked," said Katelyn. "I had no idea that so many students in my community were affected by food scarcity." After weeks of thinking about this and feeling guilty for enjoying dinner every night, she devised a plan to do something about it.
Katelyn asked the assistant principal of Martin Elementary School to estimate how many students didn't have enough to eat at home, and upon hearing the answer, realized that she would need funding to address this need. So she made a presentation to her church's finance committee, which agreed to contribute $1,500. She then had to figure out what food items would be the most nutritious and cost-effective, where to purchase them and how to package the items. She also placed donation bins in her church and gave congregation members lists of needed food products. Katelyn currently has more than 20 volunteers from her church helping her put together at least 55 care packages every week for Martin Elementary students. Katelyn's church has since expanded its support for the school by providing classroom volunteers, sponsoring sports teams, and donating books and supplies.
Lucy (pictured right), a fifth-grader at Union Elementary School, has made more than 375 hand-sewn "Love Blankets" for children around the world who, due to a variety of life challenges, need a little extra love. After learning to sew, Lucy made a blanket for a friend for her birthday. It made her feel so good when she delivered the gift, she said, "I thought it would be nice to give more kids blankets that would help them feel loved."
With her mother's assistance, Lucy asks people who visit her Instagram account to nominate a child who could benefit from one of her Love Blankets. "People nominate children for many different reasons," she said. "Some are sick, have disabilities, have lost a parent or a sibling, are being bullied or are lonely." When Lucy receives a nomination, she studies the child's story and picks just the right fabric for his or her blanket, sews the pieces together, stitches on a little heart, and then sends it off. Many people have donated money to help Lucy pay for materials and shipping, and she sometimes gets help with the sewing from family members and other young people. Most of her blankets have been shipped to kids in more than 13 countries overseas, but Lucy also delivers some locally, including to students at her school. "It makes me happy to do something to make someone else feel happy and loved," she said. "I think if we could all think of things we can do to be kind, the world would be a better place."
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.