SPRINGFIELD, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Paige Logan, 18, of Altamont and Jashira Bolden, 13, of Belleville today were named Illinois' top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Paige was nominated by the Effingham County 4-H in Effingham, and Jashira was nominated by Unity Lutheran Christian Elementary School in East St. Louis. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Paige, a senior at Altamont High School, became a leading voice against bullying on the local, state and national level after she won a local pageant in the eighth grade and then experienced attacks online and became the subject of gossip and rumors from classmates -- and, in some cases, even from their parents. “When it happened, I just started going down and down,” said Paige. “I didn’t want to go to school anymore and my grades started slipping.” School officials eventually interceded, but by then, Paige had already decided that she had to do something to keep the same thing from happening to others. “I decided to take action, make a difference not only for my school, but for my community, my country and even my world,” said Paige.
For many years, Paige had been a leader in her local 4-H, teaching cooking classes to youngsters, and helping to start a program that has recycled 1,500 pounds of unused prescription medications. This time she turned to 4-H to hone her leadership skills so she could speak with authority. She began traveling to schools and universities to speak about bullying, and won grants to conduct a leadership camp and an anti-bullying program in her county. She has been invited to serve on several state and local boards, as well as participate at bullying-prevention summits in Washington, D.C. In addition, she serves as a national spokesperson for the Great American No Bull Challenge. While the public is now more aware of the problem, Paige says bullying is more complicated today than ever before. “All day it happens at school and then when you think you are safe in your own home, you’re not,” she said. “Because of the use of cell phones and social networks, bullying is now a 24-hour event.”
Jashira, an eighth-grader at Unity Lutheran School, is the founder and CEO of an organization that conducted a series of fundraisers to benefit five homeless shelters in East St. Louis. “I decided to raise money for the less fortunate because I knew that everyone didn’t have the funds to provide for themselves,” said Jashira. That reality became apparent to her one Christmas when she noticed that several charities were seeking donations to buy gifts for poor families. “God has blessed me abundantly and I would like to share His blessing with others,” she said.
Jashira discussed her desire with her parents, and then began planning fundraising activities. Her first effort – selling partnership cards from Krispy Kreme – raised $250, which she used to purchase bath sets for homeless adults and toys for their children. Next, she collected more than $1,000 from a variety of donors and put together 70 Easter baskets for residents of three local shelters, containing soap, towels and other items. The following year Jashira organized a fundraising dinner, and last year raised money by hosting a fashion show. With her proceeds, she has provided food and gifts to shelter residents, and she has even helped pay some of the shelters’ bills.
As State Honorees, Paige and Jashira 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 four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013.
The program judges also recognized eight other Illinois students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Illinois' Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Mark Crenshaw, 18, of Eureka, Ill., a senior at Eureka High School, has been an instrumental leader in his school’s “Hope Week,” a weeklong series of fundraising events that yielded more than $55,000 for the Dax Locke Foundation, a charity that provides funding to St. Jude Hospital. Mark, as president of his student council, is responsible for coordinating and advertising events, and reaching out to other schools to encourage involvement.
Jake Herb, 16, of Barrington, Ill., a junior at Barrington High School, founded “Go Beyond Barrington,” a nonprofit organization at his school that raised $35,000 to support the Joplin, Mo. community after the devastating tornado in May 2011. Jake, who leads a group of students dedicated to spreading awareness and raising money, has provided $18,000 to help Joplin High School purchase new technology supplies and $17,000 to help rebuild one family’s destroyed home.
Isha Jog, 17, of Schaumburg, Ill., a senior at Hoffman Estates High School, founded “Holiday Heroes,” a youth-run volunteer organization that sponsors a major service project timed around every major holiday. Isha, who was inspired to give back after receiving assistance in the past, coordinates the activities of 50 members who participate in projects including food drives, charity dinners and book collections that have impacted more than 5,000 people in Illinois.
Ingrid Lustig, 18, of Lake Bluff, Ill., a senior at Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, created and maintains an online peer counseling site called “Enjoy the Journey,” through which teen volunteers help other teens cope with daily stress. Ingrid, who created the project with help from faculty and administrators, also created an awareness campaign through presentations, posters, wristbands, displays and videos to encourage teens to eliminate the stressors in their lives.
Alex Marck, 18, of Freeport, Ill., a senior at Aquin Catholic Junior/Senior High School, raised $35,000 to support his Eagle Scout project to build a picnic pavilion at Little Cubs Field in Freeport. Alex, who sought in-kind donations and sponsored a dinner and sports auction to raise the funds, also worked with the local government on building plans, secured a volunteer force to help build, and led the entire project from start to finish.
Michael Bryant Powell, 18, of Belleville, Ill., a senior at Belleville West High School, embarked on an Eagle Scout project to raise more than $2,300 to provide 150 copies of the book “Maybe Days” to school libraries and faculty to help them help foster children succeed in school. Michael, who was adopted by his last foster parents when he was ten years old, remembered how the book helped him cope and wanted to do something to help other foster children find happiness and success.
Jen Rubino, 18, of Park Ridge, Ill., a senior at Maine South High School, founded “Cards for Hospitalized Kids,” a national nonprofit organization that has provided more than 10,000 greeting cards to hospitalized children nationwide. Jen, who started the charity after receiving a handmade card during one of her many hospital stays, has reached out to young card-making volunteers through the internet and social media, and has encouraged celebrities to make and send cards as well.
Matthew Williams, 15, of Vienna, Ill., a sophomore at Vienna High School, raised nearly $1,300 for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and provided hats to children undergoing chemotherapy through his project, “Matt’s Hats.” Matthew, who was only 9 years old when he underwent surgery and radiation to remove a brain tumor, began a hat collection to cover his own head and wanted to provide hats to other young patients as a small comfort.
“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. 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 HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Nearly 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013. These National 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.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees on behalf of President Barack Obama.
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 36 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.
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 http://www.news.prudential.com/.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW