WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Nevada's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Samantha Schuetze, 17, of Las Vegas and Samantha Hook, 12, of North Las Vegas, 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. Samantha Hook – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award 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. Samantha Schuetze, who was unable to attend last night's events, was honored in absentia for her outstanding volunteer service.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Samantha Schuetze and Samantha Hook Nevada'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.
Samantha Schuetze, a member of Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada and a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, formed a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 600 "hand off kits" containing food and personal hygiene items for homeless youth and women in southern Nevada. When Samantha served a Thanksgiving meal with her mother at a local homeless shelter in sixth grade, "I became aware, probably for the first time, that other kids were not as lucky as I was," she said. Subsequent visits to the shelter prompted Samantha to do some research on homelessness, which indicated that "Las Vegas has the fifth highest adult and the highest teen homeless population in the United States," according to Samantha.
She enlisted the help of her church youth group, a local foundation and her neighbors to assemble 300 "kits" containing things like water, protein bars, cookies, candy, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hats, socks, lip balm and hand sanitizer, and delivered them to a local shelter for women and children. After discovering that "seeing people smile because of your actions is one of the best feelings in the world," Samantha was eager to do more. So she established a nonprofit organization called "Helpful Hand Off Kits" and began reaching out to business, church and school leaders for help in collecting donations for the homeless. Those efforts, plus a GoFundMe account, have enabled Samantha to raise $3,000 and provide hundreds of additional kits to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
Samantha Hook, a member of Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada and a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy, collected small toys and other fun items to fill 200 ziplock bags and delivered them to a residential facility where families stay while their loved ones are being treated at the local VA hospital. "Before, Fisher House did not have anything for children to play with, so the kids were often bored or sad about their hospitalized family member," said Samantha, whose father is a disabled veteran.
Accompanied by her best friend, Samantha visited Fisher House to determine exactly what kind of gifts would be best for the young people who stay there. Then they began soliciting donations from Girl Scout troops, the American Legion Auxiliary and the military community at Nellis Air Force Base. Once they had enough items, they packaged them all in ziplock bags and delivered them to the manager of Fisher House, who was "very excited and pleased," said Samantha. Included in the bags were things like dolls, toy cars, coloring books, crayons, jewelry, footballs and baby toys, plus blank cards that the recipients could use to write a letter or draw a picture for their hospitalized family member. "The project was incredibly important to me because I made other little kids happy," said Samantha.
"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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