CONCORD, N.H.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mariah Larocque, 17, of Derry and Anne Macleod, 14, of Windham today were named New Hampshire'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. Mariah was nominated by Pinkerton Academy in Derry, and Anne was nominated by Windham Middle School in Windham. 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).
Mariah, a junior at Pinkerton Academy, convened a small group of teenagers to form a nonprofit organization that conducts a variety of service projects in her community on a regular basis, including volunteering at a soup kitchen and helping out at an assisted living facility. Two summers ago, when Mariah invited some friends over to her house for pizza and Gatorade, the conversation soon turned to the many problems in society today. “There was bullying, homelessness, hunger and so much more,” said Mariah. “These kinds of things are what many of our peers are seeing and yet they turn and look the other way.” Mariah and her friends, however, refused to do the same. “It was then that we decided that we wanted to make a change in our world,” she said.
They agreed to establish an organization called “We Can Change the World (WCCW).” Led by Mariah, they spent hours researching, networking, planning an agenda and filling out forms. And almost immediately, the team began working on volunteer projects. They served warm meals at a soup kitchen, collected books and toys for children in need, provided free babysitting for families who couldn’t afford a sitter and did yard work for people needing assistance. WCCW also set up a website and Facebook page to speak out about bullying, and is planning to take its anti-bullying message to elementary and middle schools. Mariah and her team members also go to an assisted living center each week to visit with the residents and help with a variety of chores. It’s all part of WCCW’s mission to “make the world a better place, one day at a time,” said Mariah.
Anne, an eighth-grader at Windham Middle School, combines her love of water skiing and working with young people by helping to teach the sport to children who are disabled. Since Anne was 10 years old, she has been assisting with a weekly summer water skiing clinic run by New England Disabled Sports for children, teens and adults who have mental or physical disabilities. “I knew when I saw this program that this was what I wanted to do,” said Anne. “You see something different everyday and it just opens your mind to another world.”
The people who attend the clinic have a vast array of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, Down’s syndrome, autism and traumatic brain injury. Anne had to undergo extensive training to learn how to work with children who have these disabilities and to adapt her sport to their capabilities. Her role at the clinic is to help get children ready to ski, and then to ride in a chase boat and be prepared to jump into the water should a child need help. Anne said she felt uncomfortable at first as she tried to relate to the water skiers, but “I learned that just because someone looks or sounds different than you does not mean they are weird or strange,” she said. “Many of the people I have the opportunity to work with think exactly like you and I, and are trapped inside of a body that is not willing to cooperate with them.”
As State Honorees, Mariah and Anne 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 two other New Hampshire students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are New Hampshire's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Maya Bloom, 19, of Hopkinton, N.H., a senior at Hopkinton High School, raised $800 in material and cash donations to purchase supplies to build six large hexagon picnic tables for use as an outside classroom at the local elementary school. Maya, who recruited several adult and youth volunteers to help with the project, also wrote a brochure that includes 85 different activities that can be done outdoors.
John Heald, 19, of Bedford, N.H., a senior at Phillips Exeter Academy, created “The Stairway Project,” a documentary about child homelessness in the Philippines and the foundation, Stairway, that was created by his friend Zach’s family to help rehabilitate children living on the streets. John raised $4,000 to purchase equipment for the film and, together with Zach and five other friends, traveled to the Philippines to shoot the film, for which John is busy scheduling bookings at high schools and colleges.
“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