ANNAPOLIS, Md.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--William Michie, 17, of Annapolis and Sade Miller, 12, of Denton today were named Maryland's top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. William was nominated by Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, and Sade was nominated by Lockerman Middle School in Denton. 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).
William, a senior at Archbishop Spalding High School, has raised enough money to plant more than 250 trees in deforested villages in Nicaragua and Guatemala through the sale of a book he self-published when he was in the eighth grade. After his book, a novella about sailing titled Racing Winds, began selling consistently, William wanted to donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity that “both helped people and was in some way connected to my novella.” While researching charities, he stumbled upon the website of Eco-Libris, an environmental group dedicated to replacing trees in the developing world that have been cut down to make paper for books. “I love the work they do because they not only plant the trees, but they teach the local people how to grow and harvest trees and tree products, and demonstrate how the land can work for the people,” said William.
He struck a deal with Eco-Libris: for every book he sold, he would devote a portion of the proceeds to tree planting. After the first 50 books had been sold, William sent his first donation, and 50 trees were planted in the town of Solola, Guatemala. More than 200 additional trees have since been planted in both Guatemala and Nicaragua thanks to William’s book sales. While sales of his book have now slowed, William said he wants to continue to fund the planting of trees, and has expanded his charitable work to include serving on the student board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and working with a nonprofit group that provides clean water to impoverished African nations.
Sade, a seventh-grader at Lockerman Middle School, is a tireless community volunteer whose efforts include collecting food for people in need, teaching children to swim, tutoring kindergarteners and walking dogs at a local animal shelter. She also has raised about $5,000 for causes from breast cancer awareness to well construction in African villages to Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief. The daughter of a school guidance counselor and school psychologist, Sade said volunteering is something she learned by watching her parents take an active role in their community. “They taught me the importance of helping others,” she said.
Sade first got involved in volunteering as a member of her elementary school’s student council, working on a food drive and a holiday auction. She then began conducting dance projects to raise money for good causes after visiting a dance studio in West Virginia that was trying to get a record number of people to do the “Thriller” dance at the same time for the Guinness Book of World Records. Sade took that idea back to her school, taught fellow students the dance and solicited pledges, raising $1,600 for her community’s hospice. The following year, Sade and her dancers raised more than $2,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Her most recent volunteer activity came after the drowning of three little boys in her area, which inspired Sade to teach children at a YMCA how to overcome their fear of the water as well as basic swimming strokes and water safety. “Just think,” she said. “My help could save someone’s life!”
As State Honorees, William and Sade 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 six other Maryland students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Maryland's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Celeste Awokoya-Gregory, 17, of Silver Spring, Md., a senior at James Hubert Blake High School, has raised more than $10,000 in the past three years for several charitable organizations by hosting Zumbathons. Celeste, who became a trained Zumba instructor when she was 15, is motivated by her desire to live a healthy lifestyle and spread the importance of exercise to others.
Nylah Burton, 17, of Upper Marlboro, Md., a senior at Guyton-Burton Homeschool, founded “Traveling Grace,” a charitable project that collects and distributes duffel bags filled with basic items to children in foster care. Nylah, who started her campaign one year ago, has already donated 72 duffel bags and raised more than $1,100 to support the program.
Susanqi Jiang, 15, of Rockville, Md., a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, founded the “ColorAHEART (Healing and Education through Art)” organization to provide art programs as a creative outlet to children from low-income families. Susanqi supervises teen volunteers as artistic mentors in the program, and has expanded to bring the joy of artwork to senior homes through another program, “Pictures4Smiles.”
Jessica Lantz, 17, of Trappe, Md., a senior at Easton High School in Easton, has trained a miniature horse and donkey for her project, “Miniatures Improving the Lives of Others (MILO),” and has taken the animals to visit children with special needs, people with disabilities, nursing homes and shelters. Jessica, who earned her Diamond Clover 4-H Award for this project, raised more than $800 and secured sponsors for the program, and has trained another young person to take over the program when she heads off to college.
Melissa Rifkin, 17, of Frederick, Md., a senior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, has helped to raise more than $32,000 since 2008 by volunteering at the farmers’ market booth for the charitable organization Cakes for Cause. Melissa also helps to bake and sell holiday cookies to support the program, which provides job training and life skills to at-risk youth aging out of foster care.
Lindsay White, 17, of Phoenix, Md., a senior at Notre Dame Preparatory School, has collected more than 10,000 pairs of shoes for “Shoes for Shelters,” a program she started at the local shelter, Paul’s Place, when she was 8 years old. Lindsay delivers the shoes monthly, and also helps with regular food service and the annual holiday bazaar at the shelter.
“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