WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- West Virginia's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Kayla McKinney, 18, of Princeton and Lakyn Campbell, 13, of Parkersburg, 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. Kayla and Lakyn – 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 Kayla and Lakyn West Virginia'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.
Kayla, a senior at McKinney Homeschool, has performed her own songs and shared her struggle with bullying at schools, after-school programs and community centers in numerous cities over the past three years, imparting messages of kindness, hope and empowerment to more than 25,000 young people. "In middle school, I was bullied, made fun of, and couldn't understand why others didn't like me," said Kayla. "I started experiencing severe depression and anxiety." But after a classmate took his own life because of bullying, Kayla wrote a song in his honor and discovered that music could help her heal from her own painful experiences and inspire others as well.
She was asked to perform her song at a convention for the state judicial system, and then began singing and playing guitar in front of young audiences. Soon after, Kayla and her mother founded "The One Voice Project," which organizes anti-bullying concert tours featuring numerous young musicians. In addition to playing songs for their audiences, Kayla and her fellow performers share stories of their own personal struggles and how they overcame them. After their shows, they provide take-home "empowerment packages" to reinforce their messages. Kayla also has made videos and public service announcements to reach kids around the world, and wrote a song with her band that's been heard by thousands at NASCAR events.
Lakyn, a seventh-grader at Jackson Middle School, has conducted an annual collection drive at her school over the past two years to provide paper products and personal care items for a Good Samaritan Center, following several years of other volunteer activities. Lakyn started volunteering at age 4, helping to raise money on a Relay for Life team after she lost her brother to cancer. Later, "I realized there are many organizations that need volunteers and community help," she said. So she held a couple of book drives for a children's welfare charity and a children's hospital.
In late 2015, Lakyn shot a deer while hunting with her father and donated 52 pounds of venison to a Good Samaritan Center food pantry. While she was delivering the meat, Lakyn got a tour of the center and discovered it had a great need for paper products and personal care items. So she asked her school administration if she could get teachers and students involved in a collection drive. She made posters to hang in the hallways and her principal promoted the effort in school-wide announcements. Over two weeks, teachers and classmates brought in donations of paper towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, detergent, diapers, baby supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cleaning supplies and other items. Lakyn and her mother loaded them into their car and took them to the Good Samaritan Center. A second drive was held the following year. "Helping others is the most rewarding feeling I've had," said Lakyn.
"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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