WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Alyssa Ewell, 18, of Canton and Abigail Diuble, 13, of Manchester, 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. Alyssa and Abigail – 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 Alyssa and Abigail Michigan'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.
Alyssa, a senior at Canton High School, was student coordinator of her school district's Relay for Life last year, which raised $30,000 for the American Cancer Society. With her grandmother battling pancreatic cancer, Alyssa had a very personal reason to assume this leadership role when a teacher asked her to take the job. "She had seen my work last year raising $12,000 to grant a wish for a young girl through the Make-A-Wish Foundation," said Alyssa. "She exhorted me to become a general in the war against cancer."
After meeting with Michigan's Relay for Life coordinator to set up a plan, Alyssa recruited students to help and began delegating tasks. She took steps to involve more than 20 schools in her school district, made flyers to get the word out to the community, assembled resource kits to help her leadership team of students coordinate activities during the event, and held an "advertising" day to pitch the project to potential donors and sponsors in the business community. In addition to running the actual relay walk, Alyssa and her team planned a "Spirit Week" at her school, trick-or-treating for little kids, a faculty "kiss the pig" fundraiser, a lip-sync competition, a cancer survivor walk, a raffle, and a luminaria ceremony. "While a considerable amount of money was raised, the most rewarding part of this experience was learning I could be a catalyst for action," said Alyssa.
Abigail, an eighth-grader at Manchester Middle-High School, is working to purchase specialized alarm systems to alert visually- and hearing-impaired people to severe weather conditions and dangerous smoke and carbon monoxide levels. In June 2015, a tornado struck Abby's home in the middle of the night. Her older sister, who is both visually and hearing impaired, barely made it to safety. "My sister was very hard to wake because she does not wear her hearing aids to bed," said Abby. "She made it to the basement stairs literally the second the tornado struck." Although Abby has been raising money with her family since she was a kindergartner to combat blindness, she was so shaken by her sister's close call that she wanted to do something to prevent this from happening to others.
With the help of her mother, Abby found an alarm system that connects a weather radio and smoke and CO detectors to a bed-shaking device and strobe light, designed to rouse the hearing and visually impaired from their beds when disaster is imminent. She and her family formed a nonprofit so they could accept tax-deductible donations and apply for grants. To publicize her project, Abby built a website, spoke to groups about her mission, and gained the support of area fire chiefs and school district officials. So far, her project has raised $50,000 to purchase alarms, which cost more than $250 apiece. "My goal is to get an alarm system to every kid that needs it," said Abby.
"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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