WASHINGTON, D.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Utah's top two youth volunteers of 2014, Hailey Daniels, 18, of Ogden and Luke Hughes, 14, of Bountiful, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 19th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Hailey and Luke – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker 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 Hailey and Luke Utah'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.
Hailey, a senior at Bonneville High School, inspires and supports young people who struggle with health issues by raising money for the Arthritis Foundation and sharing her own story of living with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Hailey was shocked and distressed when she received her diagnosis at age 15. But “after pondering the situation, I promised myself that I was going to be the best me that I could be,” she said. “I was going to face this trial with a positive attitude.” Hoping to inspire and help others in similar circumstances, Hailey got her school, church and others in her community involved in making uplifting cards for patients at a local children’s hospital. She delivered the “Love Letters” every six weeks while visiting her doctor at the hospital.
When Hailey found out about the Arthritis Foundation, she immediately jumped in to assist with fundraising events, advocacy efforts, gala dinners and activities for kids. For the foundation’s annual fundraising walk, Hailey formed three teams comprised of family members, friends and fellow high school students. The teams raised more than $6,000 with activities including barbecues, candy sales, dinners at local restaurants and a benefit meal at a soup kitchen. In all of her endeavors, Hailey strives to inspire others to stay positive and chase their dreams. “My dream is to help others, especially children, realize that they can accomplish anything and conquer any problem with a smile on their face and a positive attitude,” she said.
Luke, an eighth-grader at Bountiful Junior High School, donated 25 large framed photographs, which he took himself, to decorate the halls of a newly-opened facility for homeless veterans. When Luke heard that Valor House, a residential facility for homeless veterans, had opened in his community, he wanted to do something to lift the spirits of the residents. “I have three great-grandpas who were World War II veterans and lots of neighbors and family friends who have served our country,” said Luke. “It always makes me sad to see veterans who are homeless.” Luke contacted the Valor House property manager and learned that because of budget constraints, most of the facility’s walls were empty. Luke proposed filling them with framed photographs.
“This project was not a piece of cake,” said Luke. “I did not realize the amount of effort it would take to execute it.” After taking and editing the scenic photos, he spent his summer days sanding and painting wood to make custom frames with the help of his neighbor, who is a Vietnam vet, and members of his Boy Scout troop. Luke then matted each picture, cut glass for the frame and mounted hardware on the back. When he was finished, the 70 residents of Valor House had beautiful scenes to look at instead of empty walls. “I have been very blessed in my life and am grateful that I was able to give back to such deserving people,” said Luke.
“These honorees are shining examples of what is possible when young people use their energy and initiative to help their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to recognize their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future.”
“Through their service, these students have not only made a difference in the lives of others – they’ve provided their peers with a powerful example of what it looks like to be an outstanding youth volunteer,” said Barbara-Jane (BJ) Paris, president of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2014 honorees for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 30,000 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 19 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. 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 Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit 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 full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW