WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Arizona's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Nathaniel Simmons, 18 and Eden Sapien, 13, both of Phoenix, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Nathaniel and Eden – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis 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 Nathaniel and Eden Arizona'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.
Nathaniel, a senior at Sunnyslope High School, is a founding board member of a nonprofit organization that has mobilized young people to collect hundreds of thousands of unwanted school supplies, toys and shoes for kids in need in Arizona and five other countries. While visiting a school in Africa in 2012, Nathaniel and his brother, Seamus, were struck by how little its students had in the way of tools to support their education. They were even more shocked after returning home and seeing how many decent school supplies were discarded by classmates at the end of the school year — "supplies that would be cherished in the African school," he said. Seeing an obvious opportunity, Nathaniel and his brother began recruiting young volunteers and schools to collect surplus school supplies for African kids, and also for homeless shelters in Arizona.
At the end of each school year, this "Re-Pack Project" delivers empty boxes to participating schools to encourage students to donate supplies that would otherwise be thrown away. He and his fellow volunteers then gather, clean and sort the donations, package them in backpacks, and ship them off to local shelters and overseas schools. The initiative collected supplies through seven schools in three states last year, and is now partnering with schools and organizations in Arizona, Mexico, South Africa, Peru, Thailand and Fiji to distribute the donations. In addition to school supplies, the organization has collected toys and shoes for thousands of children in need. "Everything I have discovered through this five-year journey has given me faith in the world, in people, and in their ability to come together and support each other," Nathaniel said.
Eden, a member of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and an eighth-grader at Stetson Hills Elementary School, assembled nearly 1,000 toiletry bags of soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion collected from local hotels, and then delivered them to a rescue mission that serves the homeless in her community. Her project sprang from an article about a charity that recycles soap from hotels for people living in poverty in other countries. "I thought it was a great idea," said Eden. "I see more and more people who are living on the streets and don't have the basics that we all take for granted, and I wanted to help."
She visited the Phoenix Rescue Mission and learned that handing out soap and other hygiene products not only prevents disease, but also is key to creating trust with homeless people and encouraging them to accept other available services. So Eden sent 30 letters to hotels in her city, asking for used bars of soap and empty shampoo bottles. With hardly any response, she made personal visits to each of the hotels on weekends. Finally, three of them agreed to her request. After winning a $500 grant to buy soap-making supplies and shampoo, Eden recruited 18 friends and family members to shred, melt and mold soap bars in her backyard, and fill bottles with shampoo, conditioner and lotion. Over two days, they packaged 965 toiletry bags for the mission to distribute. Eden also provided people experiencing homelessness with 144 toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and deodorant products.
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network. More than 29,000 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 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 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 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 www.nassp.org.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Arizona's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.