WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- West Virginia's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Quinn Raffo, 15, of Craigsville and Chloe Orecchio, 11, of Weirton, 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. Quinn and Chloe – 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 Quinn and Chloe 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.
Quinn, a sophomore at Richwood High School, founded a summer backpack food program that has provided more than 30,000 meals over the past five years to students in her rural county who otherwise would not have enough to eat when school is not in session. When she was 10, Quinn had to fast for 24 hours before some medical testing. "I'll admit, at first I thought it would be fun to only eat jello and popsicles for an entire day," she said, "but I got hungry really quickly and realized it was terrible. I had never felt that type of hunger before." That made her think about the kids at her school who would take "extras" home from lunch to keep from going hungry. She knew she had to do something to help them.
Quinn began volunteering at a food pantry and then learned that her town did not have a program to feed hungry kids over the summer. She researched how to start a backpack program, arranged to use a church's community room, sent application forms to local schools, and then set about raising money through grants and fundraisers such as a car wash and a softball tournament. With money in hand, Quinn sets a weekly budget, plans a menu, shops for groceries, recruits volunteers to help assemble bags and delivers a stuffed backpack to each student's house. Every child receives five breakfasts and lunches and 10 snacks for 10 weeks during the summer. Last year, Quinn had to quickly ramp up her program when teachers in her district went out on strike. She pulled together dozens of volunteers to provide meals to more than 750 kids during the 10-day walkout. "It never gets old to be able to provide something that you know people truly need," she said.
Chloe, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph The Worker School, organized a monthly cleanup program to keep her school campus free of litter. While riding to school every morning, Chloe began noticing litter along the sides of the road and in the school yard. "All of the trash on our campus made our community look very dismal," she said. "I told my parents that someone should clean it up." After a few days of complaining, Chloe's father asked her to come up with a solution. She realized that "it is up to us kids to keep our schools clean," and so she came up with a plan for "Chloe's Campus Clean-Up."
She prepared a PowerPoint presentation to explain her plan to the St. Joseph School Board, which approved it immediately. Then she started recruiting fellow students to form a cleanup team and gave them instructions on how she wanted to run the operation. The first cleanup collected four garbage bags of trash from the grounds of Chloe's elementary school and a high school and church across the street. Chloe now schedules a cleanup on the third Saturday of every month. "It has made a big difference on the campus," she said proudly. "No litter to be found!"
"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 West Virginia's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.