WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Tennessee's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Zachary Wolfson, 18 and Sydnee Floyd, 13, both of Franklin, 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. Zachary and Sydnee – 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 Zachary and Sydnee Tennessee'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.
Zachary, a senior at Franklin High School, runs an organization that collects clothing and shoes for homeless teens and raises awareness of their situation. It started with a family trip to New York City. On a frigid December night, his family rounded a busy corner and saw a lightly clothed boy lying on a tattered piece of cardboard in an alley. "Pedestrians walked by him as if he were nothing but an inanimate object," said Zachary. "This broke my heart. For the first time in my life, I realized that this could have just as easily been me." The next month, he held his first winter coat drive, collecting 70 garments. "But I knew I had only made a tiny dent in Nashville's teen homeless problem," he said. "I knew I needed to do more."
So, two years ago Zachary founded a teen-run charity called "Threads of Care" to conduct clothing drives and fundraisers for homeless kids and to create awareness through social media. Zachary spent the summer before his junior year building a website and a blog platform. He then asked nonprofit organizations that serve homeless teens to help distribute his donations, gave interviews to local media, and recruited volunteers at schools in central Tennessee. As executive director, he now oversees a team of 20 student leaders and 180 teen volunteers at seven high schools. Thus far, his organization has collected over 9,400 articles of clothing and more than 600 pairs of shoes, raised over $3,600, and written 53 blog posts about teen poverty. Most of what Threads of Care has collected has been donated to Oasis Center, which serves teens living on Nashville's streets.
Sydnee, an eighth-grader at Woodland Middle School, has grown up volunteering in a wide variety of ways to serve those less fortunate. She spent her younger years living in eastern Kentucky where her mother worked at a private college. "The college is located in a county adjoining the poorest county in the United States," said Sydnee. "I had friends with little food or clothing and I knew I wanted to do something." With her mother as her example, Sydnee began doing what she could to help.
Her first experience as a volunteer was with an outreach ministry sponsored by the college. Later, Sydnee raised money for meals at homeless centers, wrapped gifts for people in need, and distributed socks, shoes and backpacks filled with school supplies for 500 elementary school students. More recently, she has helped her school collect food for a nonprofit, and volunteered at its warehouse. She also led her school's student council in collecting supplies for a school destroyed by fire, raised money to buy gifts for hospitalized children, and filled 100 toiletry bags for homeless men in Nashville. Sydnee also conducts leadership workshops for students, serves as a peer tutor, and speaks in classrooms on topics such as bullying, teen suicide, drugs and peer pressure.
"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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