WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Indiana's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Tatum Parker, 18, of Indianapolis and Adrian Huizar, 15, of Michigan City, 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. Tatum and Adrian – 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 Tatum and Adrian Indiana'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.
Tatum, a senior at North Central High School, has delivered more than 3,500 backpacks, each stuffed with about $350 worth of fun items, to every child in Indiana diagnosed with cancer since she and her family began the "Tatum Parker Project" in 2008. When Tatum was almost 6 years old, she learned she had Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer, in her right femur. After undergoing surgery and a year of chemotherapy, Tatum thought she was cured. But a year later, her disease was back and she once again needed treatment. During her hospitalizations, it saddened her to see so many young patients far away from family and friends and without much to do. "I always felt so terrible that I would share my things," Tatum said.
After she was well again, Tatum and her family wanted to give back to the pediatric cancer community. They established a website, got the word out around the state and started raising money to purchase fun items to fill backpacks. They then reached out to schools, businesses and clubs to host toy drives and fundraisers. Every month, Tatum gets a list of the age and gender of every child in Indiana who has been recently diagnosed with cancer. She and her family then go shopping for age-appropriate games, toys, craft kits and electronics, which are then packed into backpacks. She then delivers her "bags of fun" to hospitals for nurses to distribute. "My hope with every bag is that the child is able to laugh, smile and get more hope," said Tatum. So far, the Tatum Parker Project, which also raises funds for pediatric cancer research, has donated well over $1 million worth of treats to brighten the lives of cancer patients in her state.
Adrian, an eighth-grader at Queen of All Saints School, started a tutoring program at his school that recruits members of the National Junior Honor Society to offer assistance to fellow students who are having difficulty with their homework. When he was younger, Adrian received help at an after-school homework program run by two teachers. "It really helped me a lot and made a difference in my grades," said Adrian. "I realized there was a need to help more students." Having volunteered as a tutor himself, Adrian knew the power of an individual to be an instrument for change in a student's education.
He decided his program would host tutoring sessions for kids in first through sixth grade for 45 minutes, four days a week. After getting approval to start his program, Adrian created forms for parents to give their permission for their students to stay after school. He then asked NJHS members to serve as tutors, and found adults willing to be present during tutoring sessions. Adrian is responsible for all scheduling and keeping track of attendance. He also provides worksheets for the tutors to use in their lessons. He has found that each student is different; some need help completing their homework, while others need to be drilled on certain skills. As Adrian sees it, everyone benefits from the program: the students get the help they need to boost grades and master skills, the tutors refresh skills they don't use every day, and parents don't have to spend as much time helping their children at home. Adrian estimates that since he started in late 2017, 62 students, tutors and supervisors have been involved in his program.
"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 Indiana's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.