CHEYENNE, Wyo., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Wyoming's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Arleth Rodrigues Rascon, 18, of Gillette and Kellen Vohland, 14, of Laramie, 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, Arleth and Kellen – 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 Wyoming'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 Arleth and Kellen Wyoming'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, Arleth and Kellen 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
Arleth (pictured left), a senior at Campbell County High School, has played a lead role in providing Spanish-speaking students and families in her community and throughout her state with Spanish-language information about applying and paying for college. When she was 6 years old, Arleth started learning English. At first this new language was just "alien noises," but within six months she was fluent. From then on, she was her family's translator, deciphering bills, making appointments, reading mail, and toggling between English and Spanish at meetings. "Language is the most explicit barrier in society," Arleth noted.
She soon became an active translator for community members as well, and began translating materials sent out to students by her school's college readiness program. She also worked with an advisor to hold Spanish-language events at her school to disseminate information about the college application process, scholarships and other financial aid, and local college preparatory programs. She created presentations, promoted the events throughout the community and translated resource materials. Today, Arleth serves as the college readiness program's first-ever Spanish community coordinator, and her presentations and translations have been made available to Spanish speakers across Wyoming. As a first-generation student, Arleth said, learning about college has been a new experience not only for her, but for her parents.. "Many students share the same story," she said. "I believe everyone should be provided equal resources to be able to unleash their potential."
Kellen (pictured right), a member of Albany County 4-H and an eighth-grader at Laramie Middle School, is a dedicated volunteer who devotes significant time to projects benefiting her school, community and environment. Kellen's community service projects include helping with 4-H activities, serving as manager of her school's wrestling team, working with students who have special needs as a peer counselor, and assisting with an annual wetlands fundraising banquet. "My world is filled with thoughtful people who encourage me to find strength in myself and to live my happiest life," said Kellen. For her, a big part of being happy is helping others. "I learned quickly that giving back to others is a reward in itself."
As vice president of her 4-H club, Kellen assists with club activities and community service projects, including helping with an appreciation dinner, guiding tours at the county fair and assisting younger club members with crafts and other projects. Her job as school wrestling manager is to check out gear, weigh in kids before matches, clean up the mats and keep the wrestlers focused. One of Kellen's favorite things is working with children with special needs. On a daily basis, she works with one of 10 students with special needs at her school, alternating so that she gets to know all of them. She teaches basic hygiene and simple tasks, and enjoys speaking with them. "When I spend time with someone who has special needs, I feel like I'm the one who is blessed," said Kellen.
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.