WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Oklahoma's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Makenna Marchbanks, 17, of Blanchard and Charles Carter, 14, of Elgin, 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. Makenna and Charles – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards 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.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Makenna and Charles 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.
Makenna, a junior at Blanchard High School, has collected more than 5,000 pairs of new and gently-used shoes to enhance the health and self-esteem of children whose families cannot afford to buy them new footwear. Makenna says she will never forget the day a classmate came to school wearing shoes that were literally falling apart. To protect the girl from embarrassment, Makenna tried to help her fix them. "We borrowed duct tape and taped her shoes back together," she said. "I was heartbroken." Later that week, someone bought her friend a new pair of shoes and Makenna could see how excited she was. "She was so proud of those shoes," she said.
Makenna began trying to figure out how she could help other young people who needed decent shoes. She created Facebook and Instagram accounts to begin soliciting donations of shoes and money, created fliers and knocked on doors, attended community events, and spoke to her church and her youth group. Makenna also sold T-shirts to raise money for new shoes. Since she started, she has put good shoes on the feet of thousands of children who otherwise would go without, including 35 kids who got brand-new shoes to start their school year. "One 5-year-old told me she had never had a matching pair of shoes until she came to school," said Makenna. "My hope and dream is that no child has to worry about a pair of shoes."
Charles, an eighth-grader at Elgin Middle School, is an energetic and dedicated volunteer who has worked with friends, family members and schoolmates on numerous projects to make life better for others. Charles learned the value of volunteering early from his family, including his older sister. "I saw how happy she was when she and her friends would donate items to various causes," he said. "I wanted that feeling."
Initially, Charles helped his mother build therapeutic tricycles for kids and veterans with disabilities, along with ramps at their homes to ease access. Later, he became very active in a school program that grants wishes for deserving individuals, helping out at fundraising events, speaking at meetings and luncheons, soliciting donations, and shopping for wish-list items. As president of his National Junior Honor Society chapter, Charles collected more than 10,000 canned food items and delivered them to a food bank, and as president of his middle school student council, he organized a winter clothing drive that collected more than 200 pieces of clothing for families in need. Charles also volunteers as a performer for a local community theater.
"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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