WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Nebraska's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Mary Degraff, 17, of Plattsmouth and Ella Alberts, 12, of Omaha, 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. Mary and Ella – 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 Mary and Ella Nebraska'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.
Mary, a member of Cass County 4-H and a senior at Plattsmouth High School, is raising money to procure a "pet disaster relief trailer" for her county so that residents will have a safe place to house their pets when tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters occur. "The American Red Cross helps people in these situations, but there are not many who help with pets," said Mary, who owns two horses, three dogs and three cats. So when she learned that the American Kennel Club makes pet disaster relief trailers available to local communities, she thought her county should have one.
After the local Humane Society officer and emergency management director agreed with her idea, Mary drafted a proposal to acquire a trailer, with goals and objectives, a budget and a timetable. She made a poster board illustrating her proposal and began making presentations to church and community groups, and at the county fair and other local events. She explains that the trailer will come stocked with essential supplies to house at least 65 pets for the critical first few days after a disaster is declared. So far, she has collected donations of $2,000, and hopes to reach the $12,000 needed for a trailer by next fall. "I believe that getting this trailer for Cass County will help with disaster situations long into the future," said Mary.
Ella, a seventh-grader at Westside Middle School, has collected more than $1,300 along with hundreds of supplies over the past four years for animal shelters in the Midwest by operating an annual one-day lemonade stand. When Ella visited a local animal shelter five years ago, one dog in particular grabbed her attention: a small, aging dachshund with no eyes, no teeth and a tumor. "I decided I needed to do something to help her and other dogs like her," said Ella. Since she had set up lemonade stands before with her friends just for fun, she thought: Why not sell lemonade to help orphaned dogs?
Ella persuaded a busy gas station to let her set up a stand out front on a hot summer day, collected donations from local businesses, poured lots of lemonade, and ended up with $600. She has repeated her project every year since. She typically finds at least five volunteers to help; uses posters, fliers and social media to advertise her lemonade; seeks donated supplies; and usually has a "spokesdog" or two on hand to greet customers. Ella chooses a different charity each year to receive her sale proceeds, which have totaled more than $1,300. She also has donated dog food, dog beds, laundry detergent and many other items needed by animal shelters.
"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
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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Nebraska'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