WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Minnesota's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Miranda Mead, 17, of Plymouth and Ariana Feygin, 12, of Excelsior, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Miranda and Ariana – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps 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 Miranda and Ariana Minnesota'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.
Miranda, a junior at Wayzata High School, raises funds and awareness nationally in the battle against childhood cancer by appearing in public service announcements, sitting for photo shoots, and sharing her own story at speaking engagements. A former cross-country runner, Miranda first thought the pain in her back was a running injury. But days after her 16th birthday, tests revealed she had Ewing's Sarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. During her long periods of treatment in the hospital, "my father and I would walk the oncology floor where I witnessed many young children suffering," said Miranda. "I was very inspired by the fight these little kids had, and it became extremely important for me to turn this negative experience into something positive."
At a local fundraiser, Miranda learned about an organization called The Truth 365, whose goal is to educate and mobilize people to join the fight against childhood cancer. After expressing interest in working with the group, Miranda began participating in its cancer awareness photo shoots and public service announcements. She also started speaking at local and national events, sharing her story with audiences and helping to raise money. In addition, Miranda hosted a weekend event in Washington, D.C., that The Truth 365 puts on annually to unite childhood cancer foundations and families whose children are fighting cancer. Today, Miranda said, she is cancer-free and will continue to advocate for kids with cancer.
Ariana, a sixth-grader at Minnetonka Middle School West, has raised more than $100,000 with her younger sister since 2013 to support young cancer patients and their families by organizing local fundraising activities in conjunction with an annual kids' triathlon hosted by a national foundation. "In our family, we know we are very lucky kids," said Ariana. "But other kids are not so lucky. It's not fair." The sisters wanted to help less fortunate children, but didn't know how. Then they learned about a young boy who had lost his battle with cancer, but not before emptying his bank account to help others and extracting a "pinky swear" promise from his dad to continue helping sick kids.
In the summer of 2013, Ariana and her sister, Gabi, raced in the Pinky Swear Kids Triathlon and raised $1,500 for the Pinky Swear Foundation. Each year since, they have recruited more and more kids to be on their fundraising team, and raised increasingly large sums. Last year alone, they had 50 team members and secured $50,000. As part of their triathlon participation, the girls and their team have conducted activities such as bagging groceries for shoppers, hosting a silent auction, coordinating movie nights, and organizing a carnival. They also give presentations to service organizations such as the Lions and Rotary Clubs to solicit donations. "The money we raised helped pay for mortgages, transportation, food and whatever it takes to help these families get through an incredibly hard time," said Ariana.
"These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers."
"It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 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 22 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 middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. 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 Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit 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 Minnesota's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance