WASHINGTON--()--New Mexico’s top two youth volunteers of the year, Jerry Hou, 17, of Albuquerque and Priscilla Duenas, 12, of Rio Rancho, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the presentation of The 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The two young people – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning at the 17th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
“We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
Jerry and Priscilla were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in New Mexico in February. In addition to their cash awards, they received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Jerry, a junior at Albuquerque Academy, started a community service club that recruits young musicians to perform at senior centers, hospitals, facilities for children with disabilities and other venues. One of the club’s biggest events was a concert that raised more than $3,500 to benefit children impacted by Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami. Jerry has been playing piano since he was 5 and loves music, so when thinking about how to satisfy a school community service requirement, he rounded up 14 young musicians to put on a recital at a local senior center. The event was so successful that Jerry decided to form a music club to perform regularly.
After winning the support of his school’s community service supervisor, he began promoting his “Music Connection of New Mexico” through email, a website, a Facebook page and newsletters. Soon he had about 100 musicians willing to play at various recitals. As club president, Jerry finds places to perform, creates programs for the recitals, and coordinates with local sponsors. For his big “Help Japan Relief Concert,” the club created a brochure, designed and printed T-shirts to sell, choreographed sound and lighting, and recruited volunteers to prepare refreshments. More than 50 performers played for an audience of 300 at the event. Since Jerry covered the expenses with a school grant and a donation from his parents, he was able to donate all of the proceeds to an international child relief organization that supplies provisions and medical supplies in Japan. The concert, he said, “truly showed that we were all connected in a common goal, and benefited our world in a way that was bigger than we ever imagined.”
Priscilla, a seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School in Rio Rancho, has been an enthusiastic volunteer at two food banks, her church and her school over the past several years. “My grandmother inspired me because she was willing to work even though she has painful arthritis,” she said. After taking training classes, Priscilla worked at a community food bank and at a similar operation at her church.
Despite high temperatures and no air conditioning, she packed groceries for the needy and helped elderly men and women carry boxes of food to their cars. Priscilla also helped babysit babies and toddlers one Sunday a month at her church and, during two summers, helped a former teacher get her classroom ready for a new school year. In addition, she helped plant a garden at a school. Priscilla definitely plans to continue volunteering. “I love it,” she said. “It makes me feel good!”
“Through their extraordinary acts of volunteerism, these students are powerful examples of the way one young person can make a big impact,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
More than 26,000 young people participated in the 2012 awards program last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state were selected in February, and flown to Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 17 years ago by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
“These young people have demonstrated remarkable leadership, selflessness and compassion, and they set a fine example for thousands of other students across the U.S. who want to make a difference,” said Ken Griffith, president of NASSP. “The actions of these young volunteers exemplify the best of what America’s youth have to offer.”
NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) 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 45 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, 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.
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 http://www.news.prudential.com/
[Editors: Full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at http://spirit.prudential.com.]
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