WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Tennessee's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Kennedy Musgrave, 18, of Nashville and Courtney Good, 12, of Kingsport, 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. Kennedy and Courtney – 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 Kennedy and Courtney 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.
Kennedy, a senior at Hillsboro High School, plans and coordinates semi-monthly meetings and other activities at her school to provide encouragement and support to fellow black students who are enrolled, or planning to enroll, in the challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Over the course of Kennedy's time at Hillsboro High, the number of African-American students in her class pursuing an IB diploma dropped dramatically, with only four set to graduate this year. "This wasn't because of how challenging the classes were," she said. Rather, it stemmed from a perception that IB courses are primarily for white students, and "an implicit bias that sets lower expectations for black students and discourages them from pursuing advanced academics." Though Kennedy, too, found her involvement in the IB program isolating and mentally draining, she persevered and felt an obligation to assist others. "I did not want them to experience the isolation and questioning of self-worth that I had experienced," she said.
Kennedy conceived a program called "IB Achievers," and hosted a four-hour orientation session to explain it to black students and their parents. Then she began conducting meetings twice a month to encourage the pursuit of an IB diploma, deal with hardships faced by minority students, and celebrate the students' accomplishments. For one of the meetings each month, Kennedy invites black professionals to speak about how they overcame barriers to become successful. The other meeting addresses topics such as study skills, time management, building relationships with teachers, preparing for exams, and planning for college. Kennedy also organizes quarterly social activities to promote balance between studies and fun. "IB Achievers is more than just a program," said Kennedy. "It's a sign of hope that our generation has a light that will not be dimmed and a voice that will be heard."
Courtney, a sixth-grader at Innovation Academy, started collecting food for families tending to their hospitalized children when she was 3 years old, and recently began using her story of surviving an extremely premature birth to help the Children's Miracle Network (CMN) raise money for sick kids. Courtney weighed only 1 1/2 pounds when she was born 15 weeks prematurely. She spent the first four months of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit, and had to return to the hospital a few more times in the following years. Courtney recalled how her family had to spend Christmas in the hospital with her one year, and wanted to do something for other families in a similar situation. With her parents' help, she came up with a plan for "Courtney's Food Wagon," and began collecting food donations so that families don't have to leave the hospital to eat.
To promote her project, Courtney handed out fliers, participated in a parade, got her school involved and hosted a Facebook page. Every Christmas since, she has delivered pre-packaged food to the family kitchen of the pediatrics unit and NICU at the hospital where she was born. Because of her charitable work and her birth story, Courtney was selected to be a CMN ambassador last year. In that role, she has spoken at press conferences, appeared in advertisements and participated in fundraising events. In addition, her face has been featured throughout 22 Walmart stores, which have raised more than $220,000 for CMN. "I love that my story is helping to raise money for sick children," said Courtney. "I hope that families with sick children can see how healthy I am now and it will give them hope."
"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 Tennessee'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.