WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The District of Columbia's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Skylar Thomas, 17 and Feven Tadele, 13, 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. Skylar and Feven – 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 Skylar and Feven the District of Columbia'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 invitation to four days of national recognition events in Washington, D.C.
Skylar, a senior at Ballou Senior High School, worked as a summer youth camp counselor and tutor to help children from low-income neighborhoods gain skills that will help them become more successful in school and in life. As a young child, Skylar was invited to participate in Reaching New Heights, a program sponsored by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. "My mentor helped change my life by being there for me when I wasn't focused on school, giving me someone to talk to about adolescent issues other than my mother, and continuously preaching that education is power," said Skylar.
Three years ago, Skylar was invited by the police department to come back to the program as a summer camp counselor. Growing up, she saw a lot of kids who were always playing video games, who didn't want to go to school, and who had difficulty completing their homework. "I wanted to change their way of thinking," she said. Her first job as a volunteer was to help the program director conduct an orientation session for parents to explain the program's mission and goals and to get permission for the children to participate. Then, on Saturdays and weekday evenings, Skylar helped young students improve their reading skills, taught them to express themselves through writing, bolstered their vocabulary and math skills, and showed them how much fun science can be. She also assisted them with community service projects and accompanied the group on field trips. "I wanted these kids to know and believe there is hope for a positive future, and that I am here to help them achieve their dreams," said Skylar.
Feven, a seventh-grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, is a dedicated volunteer who gives back to her community and beyond in many ways, including packing food for people in need, teaching Sunday school at her church, and traveling to Ethiopia to aid people living in poverty and teach English. Feven said her older sister is her primary inspiration for serving others. "Ever since I was little, I have looked up to my sister because I always saw her helping others in some way," said Feven. She soon discovered that volunteering was its own reward. "It gives me a happy feeling inside," she said.
When she was about 7 years old, Feven started following in her sister's footsteps by selling chocolates at her church to raise money for her school. Then she offered to help struggling students with their homework, and assisted teachers in sprucing up their classrooms. Gradually, she increased her commitment to helping others and began teaching the Bible to children at her church, distributing holiday cards at a senior citizens home, and packing food to give to the poor in her community. Last summer, Feven, her sister and a friend traveled to Ethiopia to feed people in need and teach English to children there. "Teaching children who are eager to learn always gives me an overflow of joy," said Feven. "Every time I teach a student, I believe that I am helping prepare that child for the real world and helping them to become great citizens and a great asset to their community."
"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 the District of Columbia'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.