SANTA FE, N.M.--()--Kyle Swimmer, 17, of Laguna and Scott Yarbrough, 13, of Rio Rancho today were named New Mexico's top two youth volunteers for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 16th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“By seeing how much these trainings helped me, I was inspired to help all of the current and future patrol leaders”
Kyle was nominated by Laguna Acoma High School in Casa Blanca, and Scott was nominated by Mountain View Middle School in Rio Rancho. As State Honorees, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2011 at that time.
Kyle, a senior at Laguna Acoma High School, formed an 11-member dance troop to share the dances and culture of the Laguna Pueblo tribe with other communities, and to inspire its Native American youth members to learn the language, stories and dances of his people. Raised by his grandparents on the reservation, Kyle had a strong role model for community service in his grandfather. “He always told me, as a true leader you never put yourself before your people,” Kyle said. Kyle, who is fluent in the Kerese language of his tribe, saw that many of his peers did not speak their native tongue, and were losing touch with their culture. He was worried that as the elders of the tribe died, there would be no one to carry on their traditions.
So three years ago, he decided to form the “Kitzit” Laguna Youth Dance Group and began recruiting youths who had a desire to learn the language and culture. With his own money, he hired local artisans to create costumes for the performances. Members meet a few times a week at Kyle’s home to practice the songs and dances and to learn the language. With the help of his mother, Kyle schedules performances for the troop and negotiates fees. Kyle has donated $1,000 of the money the troop earned from their performances to a scholarship fund in his grandfather’s honor that helps further the education of tribal youth. “I have watched kids come from single-parent homes doing drugs and not giving a care in the world about what happens tomorrow,” said Kyle. “I have seen them completely change into individuals who want to make a positive difference for our people.” In addition, Kyle also supports his community by helping to maintain the village ceremonial building, picking up trash, cleaning irrigation ditches, and participating in village meetings.
Scott, an eighth-grader at Mountain View Middle School, planned and taught a class on Boy Scout patrol development to 50 boys at a youth leadership training seminar held by his local scout troop. Active in scouting since the first grade, Scott had previously attended leadership training classes and had direct leadership experience as a patrol leader in his troop. While attending a weeklong national training program, he realized that he had the skills and desire to teach a class of his own. “By seeing how much these trainings helped me, I was inspired to help all of the current and future patrol leaders,” he said.
Planning his class took over a month. After talking with older scouts and advisors about the subject, Scott and a partner devised a lesson plan, a list of materials they would need, and posters and models to serve as visual aids. Although he was very nervous speaking to such a large audience, Scott skillfully discussed the stages of patrol development and how patrol leaders can identify and fix problems that typically appear at each stage. Before the class began, he instructed his students to build a shelter and observed how well they worked together. Then he cited this experience in his presentation to illustrate methods that were effective and those that were not. “The skills I taught can also be used outside of the troop in other organizations,” said Scott, who now uses them himself in student government and Boy Scouts.
In addition, the program judges recognized two other New Mexico students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:
Serina Pack, 16, of Silver City, a volunteer with the Grant County 4-H and a junior at Cliff School in Cliff, has created “C.L.I.M.B. (Creative Literacy in Motivating Book Reading),” a series of children’s literacy programs that motivate young children to read and express themselves artistically. Serina recruited teen mentors and worked with various community organizations to mentor more than 100 children through various workshops, motivational presentations, and free book exchanges.
Denali Wilson, 18, of Las Cruces, a senior at Mayfield High School, volunteers her artistic skill for a number of community projects, including “Keep Las Cruces Beautiful,” where she renovated a mural that was destroyed by graffiti. Denali also has created public murals to brighten low-income areas and volunteers as an art teacher for an after-school program for needy, homeless and abused children.
“These award recipients have proven that young people across America are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “Each and every one of these honorees deserve our respect and admiration, and we hope by shining a light on them, they will continue to serve as an example for others.”
“The young people recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards demonstrate an enormous capacity for giving and reaching out to those in need,” said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “NASSP is proud to honor these student leaders because they are wonderful examples of the high caliber of young people in our nation’s schools today.”
All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. More than 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them – five middle level and five high school students – will be named National Honorees on May 2 by a prestigious national selection committee. These honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit, charitable organizations of their choice.
Serving on the national selection committee will be John Strangfeld of Prudential; Jana Frieler, president of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light Institute & Hands On Network; Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the America’s Promise Alliance; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Pamela Farr, the American Red Cross’ national chair of volunteers; Elson Nash, associate director for project management at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Shannon McNamara of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Benjamin Sater of Plano, Texas.
In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will be distributing President’s Volunteer Service Awards to more than 2,800 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of President Barack Obama. The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. Since the program began in 1995, more than 95,000 young volunteers nationwide have been honored at the local, state or national level. Many prominent public figures have assisted in saluting these honorees over the years, including Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Magic Johnson, John Glenn, Madeleine Albright, Rudy Giuliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Peyton Manning, Laura Bush, and Condoleezza Rice. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India.
For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.
In existence since 1916, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the preeminent organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. NASSP’s mission is to promote excellence in school leadership. The National Honor Society ®, National Junior Honor Society ®, National Elementary Honor Society™, and National Association of Student Councils ® are all NASSP programs. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, Va., visit www.nassp.org or call 703-860-0200.
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Editors: Graphics depicting the award program’s logo and medallions may be downloaded from spirit.prudential.com.