WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Wyoming's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Noelle Peterson, 18, of Encampment and Lily Harris, 12, of Green River, 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. Noelle and Lily – 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 Noelle and Lily Wyoming'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.
Noelle, a senior at Encampment K-12 School, has provided caps, craft kits and coloring books for at least 150 children being treated for cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital over the past three years, to honor her father, who died from lung cancer when she was 5 years old. Noelle recalled that her family received a tremendous amount of support after her father's death from extended family members, teachers and their community. "It honestly changed our lives," she said. "As I got older, I wanted to help people in the same way." Over the past five years, she has volunteered more than 600 hours to veterans, mentoring, and community beautification projects. Her most worthwhile work, she said, has been helping children at St. Jude, because the hospital focuses on children and provides treatment regardless of a family's ability to pay.
Noelle started by making cancer caps for kids in the oncology unit at St. Jude. After learning the sewing process and selecting fun patterns, she gathered materials and recruited other young people to help her make more than 100 caps. Noelle then assembled more than 75 craft kits for children at the hospital, and collected over 100 coloring books from friends and family for Christmas and her birthday. She sent them all to St. Jude by mail, but one day hopes to deliver more gifts personally to young cancer patients there. "I hope they understand that even though we've never met, there are people supporting their fight," said Noelle. "Maybe my contribution will give them a positive feeling on a day they are struggling, and give them the courage to keep pushing through."
Lily, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, took it upon herself to water flowers in her city's downtown, sold her own stuffed animals to help a boy with a brain injury travel to his doctor, and collected donations for families displaced by a wildfire in Montana. Lily decided to water the flowers in her town's downtown area. She collected 40 milk jugs from a recycling center, filled them with water, loaded them into her family's car, and asked her mother to drive around to 20 municipal flower pots so she could pour water on them. She's already collecting seeds to replant in all of the pots this year to save her town additional tax money.
When Lily learned that a boy with a brain injury needed to travel 12 hours each month to visit an expensive specialist, she wanted to help. "I knew I could not pay for his doctor," she said, "but I could help him get there." So she gathered up her stuffed animals — her most valuable possessions — and offered them for sale in front of a grocery store. Passers-by gave her enough money to buy gas for the boy's doctor visits for the rest of the year. Lily also wanted to do something for families who lost their homes to a Montana wildfire. She knocked on doors after school to explain the need, and sent donations to the Lolo Peak Fire Disaster Relief Fund. "I feel so good when I volunteer!" said Lily.
"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 Wyoming'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.