WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Texas' top two youth volunteers of 2018, Zane Magee, 17, of Montgomery and Caroline Wells, 14, of Tyler, 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. Zane and Caroline – 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 Zane and Caroline Texas' 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.
Zane, a senior at Montgomery High School, formed a nonprofit ministry that supports deployed soldiers and military veterans in a variety of ways, including providing them with Bibles and care packages, organizing fundraisers, raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even writing an inspirational book to honor and support servicemen and women. Zane has always admired the people who fight for their country. When he was 10, "I wanted to be a part of the military and the only way I could at a young age was to support those that were actually serving or had served," he said. When he heard about the prevalence of PTSD in the military, he knew he wanted to do something to help.
He started by collecting Bibles at his church and sending them to deployed soldiers. Soon after, he began sending care packages containing toiletries and snacks to troops. When he was 13, his "Beyond the Battlefield Ministry" became a nonprofit organization and he established a Facebook page to convey information about special military programs, organizations and events for veterans. Zane also planned fundraisers, including a gun tournament and a gala. A conversation with a Navy Seal about PTSD and how faith can aid in healing led Zane to write a book, Hope & Help for Heroes, and donate 1,000 copies to veterans and veterans organizations. Altogether, Zane estimates that he has contributed $36,000 in cash donations, gifts and assistance to benefit soldiers and veterans. "Those that serve in the military are heroes and deserve our honor and respect," said Zane. "They are sacrificing and fighting for our freedom, and are willing to lay down their lives for our country."
Caroline, an eighth-grader at All Saints Episcopal School, has raised more than $40,000 for her local Salvation Army chapter by selling lemonade, ringing bells during the holidays, and organizing food and toy drives. When Caroline was in third grade, a fire destroyed a local Salvation Army storage building that contained Christmas presents for children. Her class stepped in to bring gifts there, and while touring the facility, they saw the rooms where families slept. "I asked my Mom, 'When do they get to go home?' and she said that this is their home for now," Caroline said. "As an 8-year-old, it hit me hard. I knew then I needed to do what I could to make their lives better," she said.
She started small, with a lemonade stand that raised $40, and then moved on to more ambitious projects. She worked with her art teacher to paint bookcases to benefit the St. Paul Children's Foundation, collected 300 pairs of socks with the French club at her school, gathered emergency supplies after a tornado swept through her community, sold her own toys and clothes on eBay to raise money, and made YouTube videos to promote the Salvation Army's work. She also organized a movie outing, and is planning a "princess party" for kids staying at the facility. As word of Caroline's commitment spread, organizations such as DreamWorks Studios and the Dallas Cowboys made donations to Caroline's local Salvation Army in her honor.
"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.
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.