WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Connecticut's top two youth volunteers of 2013, Alison Forger, 17, of Monroe and Anna Murphy, 11, of Stafford Springs, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 18th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Alison and Anna – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Alison and Anna Connecticut's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Alison, a junior at Masuk High School, promotes the love of reading and writing in young students through a club she organized that sends high school students to elementary school classrooms to assist with reading activities. When Alison was in eighth grade, her English teacher challenged her to use her love of reading and writing to benefit the community. Alison created “Reading and Writing Rock,” a student mentoring club that she has run for the past four years. “I wanted all of those students to be able to pick up a book or write a story and feel the same sort of happiness and satisfaction that I do,” said Alison.
To start her club, Alison, with the help of her English teacher, recruited six fellow students and contacted local elementary school officials, who agreed to let the students visit their school once a week during English classes. The older students read to the children, helped them write stories, taught them about authors and even organized plays based on their favorite books. Over the years, the club has grown to include 35 high school mentors in all three of the district’s elementary schools. In 2010, Alison won an essay contest sponsored by NBC Connecticut’s Education Nation and was awarded $5,000. After soliciting input from elementary teachers involved in her program, she used the money to purchase more than 500 books for the schools. Last summer, she also worked with a local bookstore owner to hand-pick 100 books to stuff in backpacks for children in need. “I always tell other high school students how much fun it is to see the kids light up when you walk through the door,” said Alison.
Anna, a fifth-grader at Stafford Elementary School, spearheaded a penny drive that has raised more than $4,000 with this winter's collection to help local families heat their homes during the harsh New England winters. For many years, Anna’s family has collected pennies, which her mother would count just before Christmas and then donate to a family in need of heating oil. “I remember wondering why we did that, when we also didn’t have a lot of money and had a tough time paying for oil, too,” said Anna. “My mom would always tell me ‘it is better to give than receive.’”
Anna took that message to heart. She wrote a letter to her fourth-grade teacher, asking if her entire class could collect pennies for her cause, which she called “Warming Families Makes Cents.” The teacher and class were excited to help. But Anna didn’t stop there. Again, she got out her paper and began writing to local businesses. Several of the businesses offered to match whatever her class collected, and a furnace company agreed to throw in free furnace cleanings for the recipient families. That Christmas, two families in Anna’s town had full oil tanks, thanks to the efforts of Anna and her team. “I will never forget the feeling I got when my mom and I called the families to let them know they would be receiving a gift of oil,” said Anna. “The happiness in their voices made me feel so warm inside.” This year, she publicized her project through Facebook and a webpage she created, and put collection jars all over town. Moreover, another school in her district agreed to collect pennies for her cause. Anna’s goal was to collect enough pennies to help three families stay warm, but now she is on her way to helping six families.
“We commend these honorees not only for the impact of their service and their spirit of giving, but also for inspiring others to consider that they can make a difference, too,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We congratulate this extraordinary group of youth volunteers.”
“These students are fine examples of what is possible when young people roll up their sleeves and commit themselves to helping others,” said Denise Greene-Wilkinson, president of NASSP. “They have learned early that their contributions can make a real difference, and there is no limit to the great things they can achieve.”
Youth volunteers were invited to apply for 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 28,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer as well. In the past 18 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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 38 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.
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]