WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Ohio's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Bryan Yan, 18 and Tanya Keskar, 13, both of Mason, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Bryan and Tanya – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis 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 Bryan and Tanya Ohio'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.
Bryan, a senior at St. Xavier High School, formed a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteers to provide academic and other kinds of assistance to local children who are being raised by their non-biological parents. Because Bryan's mother teaches at an inner-city school, he has been very aware that some students live in foster or group homes because their parents are addicted to opioids. "Mom worries about her students even after work," he said. "She tells me frequently how much her students need and deserve support." So, as a freshman in high school, Bryan began volunteering at a ministry serving people who need help. But when he realized how many children were affected by the opioid epidemic, he decided to organize an effort specifically to address that crisis.
Over the past three years, Bryan has recruited more than 50 volunteers from local high schools, the University of Cincinnati, companies and organizations to lend individualized support three times a week to kids living with non-biological parents. They provide academic assistance, mentoring and extracurricular activities at various locations, including libraries, group homes and food banks. More than 900 kids have benefited so far, and of those who have received academic help, over 80 percent have significantly improved their school grades. Bryan's organization also has sponsored two youth symposia to connect young people to mental health services, job opportunities, college admissions personnel, GED programs and other resources; organized an annual summer camp for 88 elementary and middle level students in need; and distributed printed materials at city events to raise awareness of the impact of drug addiction on children. "I truly believe all children should have the opportunities to achieve their fullest potential regardless of family circumstances," said Bryan.
Tanya, an eighth-grader at Mason Middle School, built a website to raise awareness of the poverty she had witnessed in the slums of India, and hosted an event that brought in $1,000 to cover a full year of education expenses for 40 Indian children. Before Tanya visited several slums on a family trip to India, she had no idea that some people lived in such poverty. "The people were living without proper schools, roads, houses, food, electricity, and opportunity," she said. "It was so sad." Then, she added, "I realized that I had all the resources I needed to make a difference. I knew I had to help them."
Upon returning home, Tanya founded a nonprofit organization called "Realize to Act," and created a website describing her experience in India with words, photos and videos. Afterward, she decided to host a "giving event" to further increase awareness of poverty in India, and to raise money for the education of children there. With help from her parents, Tanya designed promotional fliers, secured sponsors, booked a venue, lined up multiple speakers, sold tickets and served as master of ceremonies. Proceeds from the event were donated to an organization that works to educate Indian children in need and break the cycle of poverty. "What is the point of life?" Tanya asks. "I believe it is to help our world. If we all work together to make the world a little bit better, imagine how beautiful it could be."
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 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 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 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.
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 Ohio's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.