WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Oklahoma's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Brooke Bollinger, 18, of Blanchard and Ellie Neidel, 14, of Oklahoma City, 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. Brooke and Ellie – 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 Brooke and Ellie Oklahoma'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.
Brooke, a member of the Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H and a senior at Bollinger Academy, organized a sewing day that produced 112 dresses for young girls in Africa and is now challenging 4-H members across Oklahoma to make dresses for African girls and trousers for boys. Community service has always been an important part of her life, said Brooke. But when she discovered information online about an international organization called "Little Dresses for Africa," her volunteerism really took off. "The moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to make a difference in these girls' lives," said Brooke. "It touched a soft spot in my heart."
Brooke recruited members of her county Oklahoma Home and Community Education group to help her make the first batch of dresses. After sending them to Africa, Brooke received a touching note of gratitude, which inspired her to do even more. She brainstormed with her parents and came up with the idea of creating a statewide challenge for all 4-H members in Oklahoma. With the approval of 4-H officials, Brooke made fliers and an information booth to publicize the challenge, promoted it on Facebook and Instagram, and offered a prize to the 4-Her who sews the most garments. Brooke's goal is to ultimately send 1,000 articles of clothing to impoverished African children.
Ellie, an eighth-grader at Highland East Junior High School, volunteered last summer at the Infant Crisis Center in Oklahoma City, where a shortage of supplies prompted her to conduct a drive that yielded more than $1,000 worth of diapers, formula and other critically needed items. Three years ago, Ellie and her mother visited the nonprofit center, which provides necessities to families with babies and young children, and were impressed by what they saw. "I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it," said Ellie. However, she couldn't volunteer because she wasn't old enough. "But the second I turned 13, I was able to sign up for the summer volunteer program," she said.
As a summer volunteer, Ellie stocked warehouse shelves, sorted donated supplies, babysat children while their parents filled out paperwork, and arranged clothing and other supplies for clients to choose from. Upon seeing how quickly the supplies dwindled, Ellie organized a very successful supply drive, appealing to friends and family members for donations on Facebook. Since then, Ellie has been invited to sit on the center's Tween Board and will now help with a variety of fundraising activities. "I have learned that there is a tremendous need for necessities for babies and children here in Oklahoma," she said. "If their parents are going through hard times, then it's up to those of us who can help to provide any assistance that we are able!"
"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
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 Oklahoma's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/two-oklahoma-youth-honored-for-volunteerism-at-national-award-ceremony-in-washington-dc-300452944.html
SOURCE Prudential Insurance