WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Emily Potter, 17, of Dowagiac and Emma Eimers, 13, of New Haven, 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. Emily and Emma – 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 Emily and Emma 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.
Emily, a senior at Dowagiac Union High School, is actively involved in numerous projects to enhance the welfare of her Native American tribe, and has served as a volunteer counselor at a youth camp during each of the past several summers. Emily's grandmother was her main connection to the Potowatomi tribe, and when she died, "I wanted to know more about where I came from and the teachings of Native traditions," said Emily. That led to her joining the tribe's youth council in 2016, which has enabled her to play a leading role in addressing several tribal issues. For example, she coordinated a project to provide most of the newborns in the tribe with a new handmade blanket, gave up Saturdays to clean a highway that the tribe adopted, and promoted sustainable farm land management and healthy eating choices among tribal members. "I feel my tribe has given me so much as a person and I want to give back to my community," said Emily.
She also has been volunteering as a camp counselor for three weeks every summer, serving as a leader, mentor and role model for girls 7-14 years old. On duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Emily supervised group projects such as crafts and rope activities, and worked with her campers one-on-one to tackle challenges from overcoming homesickness to tying shoelaces. When Emily was a young camper at the summer camp years ago, she was inspired and encouraged by her counselors to be a better person and try new things, she said. "I feel like it was my duty to pass this along to the campers that are now attending."
Emma, a seventh-grader at Endeavour Middle School, has been helping her older brother feed Detroit's homeless and hungry once a week since she was 5 years old — and, noticing that many had pets, started her own project to make sure that they, too, get a healthy meal. The pair started volunteering when a friend of their grandmother asked if they would hand out warm blankets at a homeless shelter. The siblings were so saddened by what they saw, they knew they had to do more. Before long, they were delivering food, toiletries and clothing every week. One day Emma, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, noticed three adults sitting in front of a tent. "They had the biggest Rottweiler dog I had ever seen," she said. "The owners said they tried to give him some of the food we share with them, but they sometimes didn't eat for days. He asked if I had any dog food." That's when Emma decided to take care of homeless animals, too.
With the help of family, she and her brother started The Eimers Foundation. In the beginning, they used birthday and Christmas money and did chores to buy what they could, but soon they were fundraising on their website and through social and news media. Once a week, they shop for groceries, pet food, toiletries and outerwear. They then put together packages to hand out to people in need and cook a meal, which they transport an hour each way to the inner city. On an average week, they serve about 200 people and their pets. Since they began, they have raised more than $90,000 through donations and award money. In addition to feeding people living in poverty, their foundation has paid for life-saving surgeries for sick animals, donated to animal shelters and the Detroit Mounted Police Horses, helped homeless people find housing, and started an annual scholarship for a homeless high school senior.
"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 and recognize 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 Michigan'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.