WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Oregon's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Shayla Montgomery, 17, of Milwaukie and Jasmine White, 14, of Beaverton, 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. Shayla and Jasmine – 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 Shayla and Jasmine Oregon'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.
Shayla, a junior at Clackamas Middle College, uses social media and speaking engagements to spread awareness of bullying, imploring both teens and adults to come together to find ways to stop this all-too-common destructive behavior. "I was severely bullied and as a result struggled with self-acceptance and depression," said Shayla. Luckily, a family member finally noticed something was wrong and confronted her. As she began to feel better about herself, Shayla wanted to help others who were going through the same torment, but she couldn't find an organization that was speaking to boys and girls directly. So almost two years ago, after spending hours researching and brainstorming, she decided to launch her own initiative, calling it "#Standup."
Recognizing the power of social media, Shayla began inviting people affected by bullying to post photos of themselves online holding a #Standup sign, and to describe how they had experienced bullying, how they had stopped it or had stood up to a bully, and how they think it could be prevented in the future. Then she started going to school and community groups to speak to children and adults about bullying and the lifelong effects it can have, and to brainstorm ways communities can come together to solve the problem. "Too many people are committing suicide as a result of bullying," said Shayla. "Together we can make a difference and end bullying!"
Jasmine, a member of Washington County 4-H and an eighth-grader at International School of Beaverton, conducted 14 training sessions in her community to teach more than 360 pet owners how to make toys for their animals with recycled materials. As a Girl Scout, Jasmine had volunteered with her troop at a clinic that provides free veterinarian care for homeless people's pets, and came away from the experience wanting to do more to help animals. She attended a pet ambassador workshop conducted by Oregon 4-H Youth Development, and then decided she wanted to teach people "the importance of playing with their pets to keep them happy and healthy," she said.
Jasmine began soliciting donations of used T-shirts and tennis balls to use in making pet toys by advertising on social media, placing a collection bin at her school and approaching a local tennis center. She eventually collected more than 1,000 shirts and balls. Then she planned her toy training sessions and advertised them with fliers around town, articles in Girl Scout and 4-H newsletters, and school presentations. Enough interest was generated for Jasmine to hold 14 training sessions at a local barn, a night market, a pet store, a library, two schools and Girl Scout meetings. To keep her project going after her sessions were over, she created three starter kits with enough materials to make 260 pet toys, along with a video demonstrating the process, then donated them to county 4-H offices for scout troops, camps, students and transitional living facilities to borrow. She has continued to solicit donations for restocking when supplies run low. In addition to her pet toy project, Jasmine has volunteered to watch over farm animals at a local dairy event and helped foster kittens for a cat shelter.
"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 Oregon'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.