BATON ROUGE, La.--()--Kellie Abbott, 17, of Princeton and Erica LeMere, 14, of Shreveport today were named Louisiana'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. Kellie was nominated by Haughton High School in Haughton, and Erica was nominated by University of Texas University Charter, Meridell Campus in Liberty Hill. 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).
“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community”
Kellie, a senior at Haughton High School, raised more than $6,700 through a T-shirt fundraiser to supply police cars with special anti-bleeding kits to increase police officers’ odds of surviving a traumatic hemorrhaging wound. Kellie felt compelled to do something after the 2010 death of Shreveport Police Sergeant Tim Prunty, who bled to death from a gunshot wound to the leg. “Police officers like Sergeant Prunty go to work each day just like we do and they deserve to have every piece of safety equipment available to make sure they return home each night,” said Kellie. After Prunty’s death, Kellie read a news article about QuikClot, a product that promotes rapid clotting in the event of serious bleeding injuries. “Louisiana state law requires each officer to receive a bullet proof vest costing approximately $1,000,” said Kellie. “A small QuikClot kit would only cost $60 and could be an important lifesaving tool.”
Kellie had previous experience raising money through T-shirt sales for various clubs, so she decided to design a law enforcement shirt and sell it in her community. After gaining the approval of local police officials, she met with a printing company, created a Facebook event page, and began speaking to individuals and groups in her community to publicize her sale. Getting orders was relatively easy, but Kellie had to spend a significant amount of time collecting payments. By the end of her sale, she had sold 443 shirts and was able to purchase 66 QuikClot kits for law enforcement officers and 16 pet clot kits for K-9 and mounted patrol service dogs. She would like to continue her efforts and plans to work with her state representative to draft a law to require the kits in all patrol cars.
Erica, an eighth-grader at Caddo Parish Middle Magnet School, founded “Erica’s Wish,” a nonprofit foundation that has donated more than $5,000 worth of clothing, books, and other personal items to children and adolescents hospitalized at a local psychiatric facility. Erica knows firsthand the daily struggles of young people who suffer from mental health illnesses. After years of emotional turmoil, she entered Brentwood Hospital in Shreveport, where she was diagnosed with cerebral dysrhythmia. “I was very lucky to have a supportive mom and dad who brought whatever I needed,” Erica said. But she noticed that many of her fellow patients always wore the paper-thin scrubs provided by the hospital. The hospital, she learned, draws patients from the far corners of her state as well as neighboring states, so many of the children’s parents were unable to visit and bring care packages. After she was released, Erica stepped in to help.
Her idea was to provide every hospitalized young person at the facility with a decorated container filled with clothing, books, personal necessities, entertainment items and inspirational words to brighten their stay at Brentwood. After coming up with a list of items, Erica, with her mother’s help, began contacting companies for donations through emails, phone calls, and visits to stores at a local mall. After she had assembled a prototype, she met with the head of the hospital. “He told me he was giving me the green light because I was the first to leave and want to come back and make a difference,” Erica said. It wasn’t long before clothing chains such as American Eagle, Journey, Hollister, and Children’s Place were sending large donations or granting her deep discounts on merchandise. Erica asked her pastor to help her produce a public video presentation, raise money and find volunteers to assemble the boxes. In just two weeks, Erica’s project had raised enough to provide care boxes for 140 young patients. “The most difficult part of my project,” said Erica, “was going public with my illness. By starting ’Erica’s Wish,’ I hope to raise awareness of the many psychiatric issues adolescents are facing and dealing with today.”
As State Honorees, Kellie and Erica 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 four other Louisiana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Louisiana's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Alexa Babin, 17, of Shreveport, La., a senior at C. E. Byrd High School, co-founded the “Studying to Achieve Results (STAR) Program,” an academic recognition program for young students staying at the local shelter for homeless and abused women and their children. Alexa and her friend throw a party each semester with medals, trophies and treats, all provided by a sponsor, for those children who earn As and Bs on their report cards.
Henry Futch, 14, of Arcadia, La., an eighth-grader at Cedar Creek School, has raised more than $4,000 since 2004 to benefit the American Cancer Society in an effort to help those battling cancer, as he did when he was a young child. Henry’s fundraising efforts began with roadside sales of potatoes from his uncle’s farm, and grew from there to lawn care for charity, bake sales and, most recently, coordinating a team for a Relay for Life charity run.
Madison Heil, 18, of Mandeville, La., a senior at Fontainebleau High School, co-authors a monthly article with her sister featuring local community service projects, events, and fundraisers in the local family magazine. Madison, who calls the column, “Kennison’s Kause,” has written numerous articles in the effort to encourage other young people to find causes for which they can make a difference.
Safa Michigan, 13, of Shreveport, La., an eighth-grader at Caddo Middle Magnet, has partnered with community organizations and raised more than $17,000 in private donations to fund two programs she created, “Do Not Dropout” and “Buy American.” Safa, who experienced homelessness and bullying as a child, hopes to encourage young people to stay in school while also encouraging people to buy American-made products.
“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