WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- New Mexico's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Peter Alarid, 18, of Silver City and Alexandra Burnham, 13, of Farmington, 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. Peter and Alexandra – 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 Peter and Alexandra New Mexico'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.
Peter, a senior at Silver High School, speaks to military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and their spouses about his experiences growing up in a family "torn apart" by a father who suffered from severe PTSD. After Peter's father returned from Iraq, his family endured years of his rage and paranoia until he and his wife attended a retreat at a veterans healing and wellness center. "They returned with a sense of spiritual and emotional healing," said Peter. "I thank God every day for what those people and my parents were able to do."
Peter was later able to visit the retreat and observe what happens there. On that visit, he was given the opportunity to speak to the couples who were there about his family's experience. "As I spoke, we all wept," he said. "It truly changed my life. I decided I wouldn't stop doing anything I could to help anyone like me or my family." Since then, Peter has spoken many times to groups of veterans and their spouses, describing the impact that PTSD can have on family members and emphasizing that there is always hope. He also has made videos about what he feels and how he survived his childhood, which are shown at retreats in Texas and New Mexico. As a result of his efforts, Peter was inspired to become much more involved in school-based service activities as well.
Alexandra, an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School, takes her rescue dog, Lucy, to a nearby nursing home each week to cheer up the residents and staff members, utilizing skills she learned in a five-month class on working with therapy dogs, and in more than 50 hours of training Lucy. While visiting the nursing home many times before with her Girl Scout troop, Alexandra noticed how few people came to see the residents on a weekly or even monthly basis. She loves animals and thought that maybe she could brighten the days of the senior citizens there by sharing that love.
Alexandra first had to attend a dog obedience class every Sunday and then start training Lucy every day. It wasn't easy, she said, but she finally got Lucy to the point where she was ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test. "We passed in one try!," said Alexandra proudly. Then she took a therapy dog class. She now takes Lucy to the nursing home during her school lunch break every Tuesday and their visits never fail to put a smile on the faces of the residents. Alexandra also made several short videos on the importance of visiting nursing homes, and she shares her "awesome" experiences with classmates after each visit.
"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 New Mexico's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or [email protected].
SOURCE Prudential Insurance