RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Taylor Klein, 17, of Ashburn and Katherine Goodman, 12, of Ashland today were named Virginia'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. Taylor was nominated by Broad Run High School in Ashburn, and Katherine was nominated by the Hanover County 4-H in Ashland. 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).
Taylor, a senior at Broad Run High School, worked with a friend to produce an online film and social media campaign to raise awareness of childhood cancer and the inadequate funding for research, and in the process helped raise more than $112,000 for research. Taylor’s inspiration was a little girl she babysits, also named Taylor, who was diagnosed with cancer when she was a toddler. “Through Taylor’s family I learned about the many roadblocks to finding a cure for childhood cancer,” said Taylor. “Basically there is a lack of research because of a lack of funding because of a lack of awareness.” One day Taylor and her friend sang a song for the child, which another friend filmed. The video was posted on YouTube, where it was viewed more than 800,000 times. “From that moment, I knew I wanted to do more,” said Taylor. She and the videographer formed a team and began making more videos to raise awareness of childhood cancer.
Soon, a charity learned of their work and asked the team to create an online film for the childhood cancer community. Taylor and her partner began production of “The Truth 365” on Memorial Day 2012 when they traveled to Washington, D.C., to interview people involved with childhood cancer and research funding. Throughout the summer, they traveled the East Coast interviewing children and parents about their experiences with cancer and how it has impacted their lives. After the interviews, Taylor edited the footage. “The most difficult part of this project would definitely be the fact that many of these children are very sick and might not make it to their next birthday,” she said. Taylor’s film has been used to raise awareness of the challenges faced by kids with cancer, as well as money to support a “dream team” of pediatric oncologists from across the country who are striving to find a cure.
Katherine, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, helps feed thousands of hungry people in her community by organizing canned food drives, encouraging gardeners to plant produce for people in need, setting up collection sites for donated vegetables and urging hunters to donate the deer they shoot. In late 2010, Katie entered a 4-H public speaking contest and chose childhood hunger in America as her topic. “In doing the research for my speech, I learned there were over 31,000 children in the Greater Richmond area that faced hunger on a daily basis,” said Katie. “I was sad to learn how many in my county were hungry.”
She contacted local agencies that feed the hungry to see how she could help. After receiving some ideas, Katie began organizing canned food drives and encouraging churches and other organizations to hold their own drives or donate money. She recruited two Master Gardener classes to grow produce, and persuaded several stores to serve as collection sites for fresh produce. She also has passed out vegetables at a local elementary school’s summer lunch program and worked with Hunters for the Hungry to encourage game donations. Katie also has a display booth that she sets up at farmers’ markets and other venues to promote her cause. In the two years since beginning her quest, Katie estimates that her efforts have helped feed more than 6,750 hungry people.
As State Honorees, Taylor and Katherine 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 Virginia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Virginia's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Jason Cui, 18, of Great Falls, Va., a junior at Langley High School, founded “Youth Inspire” to provide young cancer patients with companionship from other young people by setting up at least 50 visits a month. Jason, inspired to help young patients while volunteering at the local hospital, gathered three friends to help him raise more than $10,000, recruited 1,000 teens in ten countries, and is working to provide iPads to children in hospitals all over the world.
Orion Dunbar, 18, of Chesapeake, Va., a member of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast in Chesapeake and a senior at Western Branch High School, has raised more than $3,000 and donated more than 6,000 handmade hats through a program she created in 2009 called “Recycle Our Clothes for Kids.” Orion, who makes the hats out of recycled blue jeans donated by Wrangler Jeans, distributes her hats to hospitalized children and children at a local home for people with disabilities.
Kartik Gupta, 18, of McLean, Va., a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, co-founded “Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education (GIVE),” a nonprofit organization intended to promote youth leadership through community service. Kartik, who is currently the director of the organization, has helped to oversee activities including free tutoring for more than 600 elementary students, and the collection and distribution of more than $4,000 worth of prep books to at-risk kids in the D.C. area.
Ronald McCormack, 18, of Vienna, Va., a senior at Gonzaga College High School, founded “Reach Out for Kids, Inc.” to encourage young people to help those in need. Since 2010, when he started his program, Ronald has raised $12,000 and recruited volunteers to conduct a number of service projects including collecting books, school supplies, toys, clothing and sports equipment for children in shelters and orphanages.
Kaleela Thompson, 14, of Hampton, Va., an eighth-grader at Hunter B. Andrews PK-8 School, founded “My Home, My History and Our World,” a small business that provides kits to organizations wanting to host educational programs to encourage children to do something “green.” Kaleela, who began in 2009, has expanded her program to include lesson plans and workshops, and donated 500 copies of a book she has published to interested organizations so they can have access to her program.
Jessica Vance, 18, of Blacksburg, Va., a senior at Blacksburg High School, started “One Square at a Time,” a project for which she has crocheted 3,000 baby hat and bootie sets and 700 blankets for mothers and babies in need. Jessica began her project six years ago and has since donated most of her items through two local hospitals, and she has sent some around the world.
“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