WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Vermont's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Samuel Grandfield, 18, of Waterbury and Ella Byers, 13, of Shelburne, 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. Samuel and Ella – 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 Samuel and Ella Vermont'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.
Samuel, a senior at Harwood Union High School, has volunteered for the past two years to help people in his community stay safe by serving as a junior firefighter for his local fire department. He was inspired to join the department by his former middle school teacher, who volunteered to fight fires despite a rare liver disease that ended up taking her life. "Her sense of duty and desire to help others is what motivates me to this day to help others and give back to my community," said Sam.
As a junior firefighter, Sam had to learn about all of the equipment used in responding to emergencies, and now has to train constantly to stay fit and maintain required skills. He has responded to numerous fires, ranging from small stove fires to large structure blazes, as well as several car accidents. Although he is not allowed yet to enter a burning building, he assists by managing fire hoses outside, directing traffic, and cleaning and maintaining equipment after calls. He also has taught young people about fire safety at department open houses, and helped clean chimneys for community members. After hearing about Sam's experience as a firefighter, three of his friends also joined the fire department. "Being a firefighter isn't just a project," said Sam. "It's a commitment to serve your community, to sacrifice for others."
Ella, a seventh-grader at Mater Christi School, has participated in several activities over the years to help Vermonters facing addiction, poverty and illness. Ella learned about the Lund Family Center when her aunt was helped by the nonprofit, which works to break the cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse. For the past eight years Ella has recruited friends to raise money for Lund by participating in an annual bike ride.
Two years ago, Ella heard about another event that appealed to her: a winter "sleep out" benefiting homeless youth. So she gathered close friends and family members to sleep outside with her on a winter's night to raise money for Spectrum Youth & Family Services. "I thought it would be a good experience for me to see how some people have to sleep outside in the winter every night," she explained. "It is very hard to persuade people to sleep outside on a cold winter night, but I usually can find people who will do it to support the cause." Ella also has volunteered to hand out food and entertain families at an event supporting a Ronald McDonald House, and collected toiletries with her swim team for families staying at a local homeless shelter. "Helping others is one of the most important keys to success in the world," she said.
"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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