WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Alaska's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Adam Skelton, 17, of Anchorage and Leena Robinson, 13, of Nenana, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Adam and Leena – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Adam and Leena Alaska's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Adam, a senior at South Anchorage High School, has collected more than a ton of books over the past two years and shipped them to rural Alaskan communities that lack ready access to reading materials. Adam, an avid reader since early childhood, was appalled when he learned that Alaskans living in villages beyond the state's road network struggled to acquire basic essentials such as books. "This seemed extraordinarily unjust to me," he said, "given my easy access to reading materials."
Adam's response was to create a foundation devoted to promoting literacy in rural Alaska. He began collecting thousands of unwanted books from garage sales, school libraries, individual donors, and even his own collection. A book drive he conducted in partnership with Special Olympics Alaska brought in more than 500 pounds of books. Most of the books he sought were children's picture books and novels for young readers, but he welcomed contributions for all ages. Adam persuaded five local airlines and two bush pilots to fly boxes of his books to some of the most remote communities in southwestern Alaska, where they were then delivered to health clinics, schools and private homes. "I'm thrilled that I have given rural residents of the state I call home the opportunity to enjoy reading as much as I do," said Adam.
Leena, an eighth-grader at Nenana City Public School, plays a key role in a small group that works to educate local residents about the dangers of tobacco. After Leena's mother and older sister founded the group, called "PINK" (for "People in Need of Knowledge"), Leena wanted to join because her father was a smoker. "I felt it was important because I learned how harmful smoking was and didn't want to see my dad suffer from things he could prevent," she said.
As one of only eight members of PINK, Leena has spent hundreds of volunteer hours helping to plan and coordinate a variety of annual events that highlight the benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle. These include a summer "prevention" carnival with attractions for kids and teens, a community picnic, and an autumn street dance featuring dinner, a live band and a guest speaker. Leena often speaks in front of hundreds of people at these events. She also helps recruit speakers to address students at school about tobacco and other harmful substances.
"These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers."
"It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year's program.
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 22 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 middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. 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 Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.
About Prudential Financial
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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 Alaska's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE Prudential Insurance