OLYMPIA, Wash., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Washington's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Adithi Raghavan, 18, of Sammamish and Sanika Datar, 12, of Kirkland, were recognized this weekend for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Adithi and Sanika – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – were also each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Washington's top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Adithi and Sanika Washington's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
"Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?"
As State Honorees, Adithi and Sanika also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program's annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration this past weekend. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
"We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them," said Bartoletti. "At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives."
About the Honorees
Adithi (pictured left), a senior at International Community School, educates young people about the environmental and economic impact of declining honeybee populations around the world, and encourages them to plant pollinator gardens to help reverse the decline. While volunteering for a local wildlife habitat group, Adithi learned about Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which bee colonies suddenly disappear after the mass exodus of worker bees. "If bees continue to disappear, people employed by the agricultural sector will experience huge business losses and consumers will face increasing food prices and limited options," said Adithi. "Thus it is imperative that we rally young volunteers to plant pollinator gardens."
After three years of training to become a beekeeper and planting pollinator gardens, Adithi organized a small group of students at her school to launch a "BEEducated" initiative. First, they developed a free interactive app that provides general information about bees through a quiz, a map highlighting bee-friendly locations and a Jeopardy-style game. So far, it's been downloaded thousands of times and is used in hundreds of classrooms across the country, said Adithi. Her group then developed a curriculum outlining the steps necessary to plant pollinator gardens at schools. Realizing that not all schools could afford gardening materials, Adithi's team raised more than $21,000 to provide students with gardening kits. Adithi and her colleagues also have lobbied legislators to fund bee research, and have recruited students in North Carolina and New England to start their own "BEEducated" chapters.
Sanika (pictured right), a seventh-grader at Environmental & Adventure School, celebrated Earth Day last year by conducting activities in her backyard to acquaint neighborhood preschoolers with things they can do to help take care of the planet's natural environment. She also helped plant trees and rid trails of poison ivy in her area. "Community stewardship projects in my school have instilled a passion in me to do more environmental work and to be an advocate to make our community better," said Sanika. So last Earth Day, she decided to host a group of her younger sister's friends and lead them through some fun, yet educational, activities.
Her first activity for the children was to make eco-friendly sidewalk paint by using cornstarch and water. After the kids painted the sidewalk, she took them on a scavenger hunt in a nearby park to find recyclable items, and then explained to the children how to properly recycle them. After she read the group a book about taking care of the Earth, she gave them a hands-on project to recycle different categories of items. Sanika had so much fun that she sought other environmental volunteer opportunities. She helped plant trees, volunteered to build signs providing information about native plants, and helped clean up poison ivy growing around a popular hiking trail. "We need to live by the message: 'Leave this world a little better than you found it,'" said Sanika.
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
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 25 years, the program has honored more than 130,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level. For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com. For more information about the National Association of Secondary School Principals, visit www.nassp.org. For more information about Prudential Financial, visit www.news.prudential.com.
Learn more at spirit.prudential.com
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.