WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- William Winslow, 12, of Raleigh, N.C., was named one of America's top 10 youth volunteers of 2018 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's 23rd annual national award ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, William has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for his school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of his choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Frances Millen, 17, of Davidson. William and Frances were named North Carolina's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2018 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
William, a sixth-grader at Daniels Magnet Middle School, fights childhood hunger in his community by holding food drives to fill backpacks with weekend food for children who otherwise might go hungry, and by helping to build school gardens in neighborhoods where access to fresh food is limited. When William was in first grade, his school counselor told his class about the importance of Backpack Buddies, a program run by a local hunger relief agency for children from low-income homes. "I knew I wanted to do more to help kids in need," said William.
So he got to work organizing a food drive, which has become an annual event. With the help of his family, William set up a website and posted a signup sheet for participants. He recruited 11 stores in the county to participate, organized 150 volunteers to work in pairs during the one-day event, and publicized it through fliers and posters. Each year his drive has collected more than $10,000 and 10,000 pounds of food to fill backpacks for classmates in need; since he started, he has collected approximately $40,000 and 40,000 pounds of food. When William learned that his community needed sustainable as well as emergency hunger relief, he applied for a grant to build a fruit and vegetable garden at a local school. Working with others in the food relief community, he helped develop a plan and recruited volunteers to help. Thus far, the group has built two school gardens in areas where there are no nearby grocery stores. "The children at the schools will learn how to grow their own food, how to prepare it, and what healthy eating is all about," said William.
Frances, a senior at William Amos Hough High School, has helped level the technology playing field for students in need in her community by providing them with more than 4,000 laptops, along with software and internet access, through a nonprofit she co-founded in the seventh grade. "In middle school, I noticed that all of our homework seemed to be online, but I knew that not all of my classmates had the technology to do it," said Frances. "It didn't seem fair." A conversation with her parents got her thinking about how to close this "digital divide," and with the help of her father, she hatched a plan.
Her initial idea was to help students in need at her former elementary school. She identified 54 kids whose families had no computer at home and then raised money to furnish them with refurbished computers and new software, persuaded the mayor of her town to provide low-cost broadband access, and found college students to teach the families to use the technology. Then, when Lowe's Home Improvement offered to give Frances 500 decommissioned laptops per year, she decided to expand her project to 140 public schools in Charlotte. She began asking area businesses for donated laptops and hosting an annual "Mega Lemonade Day," a day when kids from 100 elementary schools set up lemonade stands all over the county to raise money. So far, the "Eliminate the Digital Divide (E2D)" program has distributed more than 4,000 laptops and opened technology labs at three high schools where students are paid twice the minimum wage to refurbish computers. "It is critical that students today have computers to do their school work, or they'll be left behind," said Frances.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
"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."
In addition to William, these are the other 2018 National Honorees:
Tabitha Bell, 18, of Sandy, Utah, a senior at Waterford School, has raised more than $115,000 through her nonprofit, "Pawsitive Pawsibilities," to provide nine service dogs to people who otherwise could not afford one.
Rosie Colucci, 13, of Palatine, Ill., an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other donations for hospitalized kids, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund research for a cure for childhood cancer.
Grayson Phillips, 18, of Gardendale, Ala., a senior at Essential Church School, organized a fishing tournament and a fundraising dinner/auction, and collected donations at outdoor expos, to provide seven children and young adults with disabilities with all-terrain power wheelchairs that allow them to safely navigate the great outdoors with their peers.
Michelle Qin, 17, of Santa Barbara, Calif., a junior at Dos Pueblos High School, is the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 100 students in California, New Jersey and British Columbia who work to empower girls and women around the world, focused on education, poverty and health.
Paloma Rambana, 12, of Tallahassee, Fla., a seventh-grader at Maclay School, lobbied legislators, led rallies, gave speeches, created a website and generated media publicity to help secure $1.25 million in state funding for visually impaired children between the ages of 6 and 13.
Hailey Richman, 10, of Long Island City, N.Y., a fifth-grader at Public School 78, has placed more than 10,000 jigsaw puzzles in nursing homes and other senior living facilities over the past three years, and created an online support group for kids around the world who have loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Madison Strempek, 13, of Crofton, Md., a seventh-grader at Crofton Middle School, wrote and self-published a 46-page book, Everyone Makes Mistakes, to reassure and comfort children, like her, who have an incarcerated parent.
Brandon Warren, 18, of Indianapolis, Ind., a senior at Warren Central High School, organized a citywide peace march and community day in Indianapolis to stand against youth violence, following the murder of a friend and fellow football player.
Helena Zimmerman, 16, of Purchase, N.Y., a junior at Rye Country Day School, co-founded a nonprofit organization three years ago that is currently giving more than 3,000 teens in 40 states the opportunity to experience meaningful volunteer work by teaching and tutoring kids in underserved communities.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Kelley of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; Anna Drenning, a national headquarters volunteer recruiter with the American Red Cross; Natalye Paquin, chief executive officer of Points of Light; Kirsten Perry, a school counselor at Lawndale Community Academy in Chicago, Ill. and the American School Counselor Association's 2018 School Counselor of the Year; Frederick J. Riley, national director of urban and youth development at YMCA of the USA; Tony Shivers, a member of the National PTA Board of Directors; Rhonda Taylor, director of partnerships and program engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Will Waidelich, executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); and two 2017 National Honorees: Amal Bhatnagar, a freshman at University of California-Berkeley, and Katie Eder, a senior at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wis.
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.
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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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media
For B-roll of North Carolina's honorees at the 2018 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or [email protected].
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.