WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Arkansas' top two youth volunteers of 2018, Anna Richey, 16, of Paris and Alexis Roberson, 13, of Caraway, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 23rd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Anna and Alexis – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn 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 Anna and Alexis Arkansas' 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.
Anna, a sophomore at Paris High School, organizes an annual community "tea party" that has collected more than $100,000 in gifts and donations over the past four years to brighten the Christmas season for foster children. Anna became interested in helping foster kids after four of her cousins were taken from their home and placed in foster homes throughout Arkansas. "They felt very scared and alone," she said. When Anna and her sisters learned how many children were in the same situation, they resolved to do something to help. "We decided that no matter what the circumstances, all kids should have smiles on Christmas morning," she said.
The Richey sisters hosted a holiday tea party at their house and invited friends to bring gifts for foster children. Each successive year their party grew bigger, so four years ago, they made it a public event, moved it to a local community center and invited all the elementary school girls in their area. After her older sister graduated from high school, Anna assumed overall responsibility for running the party, overseeing publicity, volunteer recruitment, donation collection, and event logistics. The 2016 party alone drew more than 300 attendees and collected nearly $28,000 in gifts for 120 foster kids. Anna notes that the party also serves to make her whole community aware of the "desperate need" to improve the lives of children in foster care.
Alexis, a seventh-grader at Riverside High School, launched a campaign that collected more than 1,500 coloring books and 600 boxes of crayons for hospitalized children in memory of her best friend. "When I was little, my mom was single and struggled to put food on the table," said Alexis. That experience sparked a desire to help others in difficult circumstances. As a result, she has distributed "survival kits" through first responders and also provided blankets and cooling fans to nursing home residents. But her biggest volunteer activity has been pursuing the dream of her best friend, Bailey, who passed away in 2016.
Bailey said that coloring helped take her mind off being sick for a little while, and dreamed of collecting coloring books and crayons for other sick children. "She never got the chance to make her dream come true," said Alexis, "so I started Books for Bailey in her memory." She asked for donations on Facebook and enlisted the help of her mother, a local FBLA chapter, a fundraising partner, and the town of Lake City. Schools across the state began helping, too, and just in time for Christmas, Alexis was able to deliver coloring books and supplies to well over a thousand smiling children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Alexis is now collecting soda can tabs to support a Ronald McDonald House in Memphis to honor her late friend.
"These honorees exemplify something we've known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it's a privilege to celebrate their service."
"Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference," said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. "We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 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 23 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 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.
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