WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Montana's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Katrina Roberts, 18, of Great Falls and Madelyn Johnson, 12, of Big Timber, 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. Katrina and Madelyn – 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 Katrina and Madelyn Montana'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.
Katrina, a senior at C.M. Russell High School, has been helping young athletes with disabilities in the Special Olympics program since she was 11 years old, and in recent years has assumed leadership positions in her state's Special Olympics organization. "I may have started Special Olympics because of my brother's intellectual disability, but I continued because of the joy it gave me to know how many lives I was changing," said Katrina. "I saw there were so many people out there who don't have a voice. I want to give them a voice."
As a unified partner for Special Olympics, Katrina mentors athletes in golf during the summer and downhill skiing in the winter. Especially significant for Katrina has been her relationship with a deaf athlete, who suggested she learn sign language so that they could communicate better. Katrina is now fluent in American Sign Language and the two are able to have "beautiful conversations," she said. In addition to mentoring, Katrina serves on a Special Olympics youth committee that involves management meetings, travel throughout the state for various events, and recruiting other students to volunteer for the organization. For the past four years, Katrina also has fostered kittens for an animal rescue organization and helps out at its facility every week.
Madelyn, a sixth-grader at Big Timber Grade School, has helped save the lives of many stray dogs and cats by fostering young animals in her home, volunteering and raising money for an animal shelter, and assisting with spay and neuter clinics. "Since I was a little girl, I've wanted to save and care for animals," said Madelyn. In late 2016, she took some stray kittens from her grandmother's house to the Stafford Animal Shelter, and from that day, she has been a dedicated volunteer at the facility, traveling 30 miles each way most weeks to help out.
Since completing a training course at the shelter, Madelyn has spent many hours fostering kittens and a puppy in her home, and performing chores at the shelter, such as walking dogs and soothing cats. She has also assisted a veterinarian at four spay and neuter clinics. In addition, Madelyn raises money to buy animal food and pay for vet services at the shelter; she recently sewed a dog bed that was raffled off. Madelyn said she feels gratified that her work with animals is making a difference in her community. "I would tell people, don't just walk by stray animals and leave them there," she said. "Bring them to a nearby shelter. Animals need love, too."
"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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