Texas' Top Youth Volunteers of 2021 Selected by National Program
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors San Antonio and Fort Worth 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/ -- Hannah Guan, 14, of San Antonio and Orion Jean, 10, of Fort Worth today were named Texas' 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, Hannah and Orion 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 Texas' top youth volunteers of 2021:
High School State Honoree: Hannah Guan Nominated by Basis San Antonio Shavano
Hannah, a sophomore at Basis San Antonio Shavano, started a nonprofit organization that provides free online math tutoring and academic camps for students from underserved communities. The child of a single immigrant mother, Hannah knows firsthand the day-to-day struggle that often keeps students from doing their best in school. "I grew up in the poorest metro area in the nation," she said, an area with "very few educational resources." But everything changed for Hannah when her mother signed her up for a math club in sixth grade. Suddenly, the girl who hated math discovered she had a real talent for the subject, and was winning math competitions around the country and even abroad. As her skills grew, she began to think about and research the way math is taught in the U.S., "with the emphasis on the very exams on which students underperform, disproportionately affecting students from underrepresented groups," she said.
So three years ago, Hannah started "San Antonio Math Include" to provide greater access to STEM education for students from different backgrounds and cultures. She developed a model to teach live classes and summer camps online, which have now involved nearly 150 volunteers and more than 5,000 students in 322 schools in 28 states and four other countries. But online instruction is a problem for students who don't have access to the internet, so Hannah wrote a report to raise awareness of this digital divide, and raised money for scholarships to help narrow it. In addition, as a member of the San Antonio Youth Commission, Hannah is working to introduce artificial intelligence curricula to local schools.
Middle Level State Honoree: Orion Jean Nominated by Chisholm Ridge Elementary
Orion, a fifth-grader at Chisholm Ridge Elementary, collected more than 600 toys for kids at a children's hospital, and provided more than 40,000 meals for people in need, after winning a national speech contest in which he encouraged people to "Race to Kindness." Realizing that "the best way to spread kindness is to lead by example," Orion started planning a series of "race" events after winning his contest, beginning with the "Race to 500 Toys." For that toy drive, he researched toys that are both fun and budget friendly and then posted a wish list on a website that his mother created. Using his contest prize money, along with donations received through the website, Orion began shopping for toys. He also set up toy collection boxes at his school and a community center. In just over a month, Orion accumulated more than 600 toys, which he unboxed, sorted and delivered to a Dallas children's hospital last fall.
Orion wanted to do something even bigger for his second "race," so he embarked on the "Race to 100,000 Meals." Partnering with an organization that collects food for the hungry, Orion filled "snack packs" with fruit, granola bars and bottles of water, and appealed to others to do the same. He then helped organized local drop-off events and pack all of the donated sack packs into delivery trucks. Drop-off events also ended up being held in other states by people inspired by Orion. At last count, Orion was well on his way to reaching his 100,000-meal goal.
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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About NASSP 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.