LANSING, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dhivya Sridar, 16, of Novi and Lillian Diuble, 11, of Manchester today were named Michigan's top two youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Dhivya was nominated by Novi High School in Novi, and Lillian was nominated by Manchester Middle School in Manchester. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 19th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Dhivya, a junior at Novi High School, created an after-school tutoring program that recruits fellow suburban high school students to work with inner-city elementary school children once a week using the online video calling service Skype. Since elementary school, Dhivya has been involved in programs aimed at fostering a better learning environment for kids in Detroit Public Schools. “In Detroit’s epicenter, students do not have the same learning opportunities as their counterparts in the suburbs,” she said. “I was saddened by the large disparity in the levels of education standards within such short distances.”
While brainstorming for ways to make a bigger impact on this problem, Dhivya developed the idea of a Skype tutoring program called “iTutor.” She contacted principals at several Detroit elementary schools and finally found one who agreed to try out her idea. She then recruited eight high school students to help eight kids at the elementary school with core subjects such as English and math, and secured three grants totaling $7,000 to buy laptop computers and headsets for the kids. Dhivya organizes weekly schedules and lessons with a teacher who oversees the tutoring, assigns tutors, sends out weekly reminders, and works out any technological complications that arise. So far, Dhivya said, the children being tutored have demonstrated greater confidence, improved test scores, and increased class participation. She is now working to expand his program to other schools.
Lillian, a sixth-grader at Manchester Middle School, leads a team that has raised more than $78,000 over the past four years for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which is devoted to developing treatments and cures for eye diseases like the one affecting Lillian. She was born with a rare disease that may cause her to completely lose both her hearing and vision as she gets older. “I can hear well with my hearing aids and I can see OK with my glasses, but that could change over time,” she said. When Lillian found out about the foundation’s annual VisionWalk fundraiser, she saw an opportunity to impact not only her own prospects, but those of everyone with vision loss. “I am not a doctor or a scientist, so I can’t personally cure people,” she said. “But I can help by spreading the word and raising money for the cause.”
Once she decided to form a walkathon team, Lillian recruited classmates and wrote letters to everyone she knew. With help from her family, she created a webpage on the foundation’s website, made handouts and phone calls, asked local businesses to place donation cans on their counters, and contacted service organizations for assistance. As youth chairperson for her local VisionWalk for the past three years, Lillian also makes frequent speeches to raise awareness of eye diseases and generate support. Over the years, hundreds of people have been part of Lillian’s team, and her efforts have produced significant funds for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “Many people of all ages and races go blind every day,” she said. “This is a really sad thing. I hope for a future full of vision for everyone!”
As State Honorees, Dhivya and Lillian 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 2014.
The program judges also recognized eight other Michigan students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Michigan's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Bryce Bizer, 16, of South Lyon, Mich., a junior at South Lyon East High School, has been an avid volunteer for a number of years, supporting the community in a variety of ways including helping with park clean-ups and traveling to Peru to deliver school supplies to children in need. To motivate other teenagers to volunteer, Bryce also created a website about all he’s learned serving the community, with resources including names of organizations that accept youth volunteers, and projects and events in need of assistance.
Qiana Eberly, 17, of Brooklyn, Mich., a junior at Jackson Community College/Lenawee Intermediate School District Academy, created and coordinated the “Rockin’ Q Fest,” a charity concert event she has hosted twice since 2012 to support several charitable organizations. Qiana, who raised more than $1,000, is in the process of creating “The Quest of Q Foundation” to continue her mission to use music to inspire and heal.
Andy Hsiao, 17, of Ann Arbor, Mich., a senior at Huron High School, raised nearly $6,000 through T-shirt sales and a benefit concert for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Since then, Andy has founded “Youth Impact,” a club that helps to raise money and awareness for charitable organizations with events and projects that are created and implemented by young people.
Haley Kowalski, 17, of Bay City, Mich., a senior at Bay City Central High School, is the director of Bay City Players, a community program that teaches children leadership, reading skills and acting. Haley, who has also volunteered for the American Red Cross and the local women’s shelter, has also helped to raise money for the Bay Arts Council by assisting with the group’s annual haunted house.
Alexis Loehfelm, 13, of Ada, Mich., a seventh-grader at Northern Hills Middle School, co-founded a club with two of her friends that collected more than 1,000 aluminum cans to purchase more than 100 new books for students in need. Since then, Alexis has coordinated two school supply drives and donated 300 custom-decorated boxes filled with school supplies for students who need them.
Alyssa Modrich, 17, of Fort Gratiot, Mich., a member of the St. Clair County 4-H and a senior at Port Huron Northern High School, created “4-H Project EGGcellence,” and helped to donate 100 dozen-cartons of eggs to local soup kitchens and food pantries. Alyssa, who lives on a farm where hens were exceptionally productive, donated the extra eggs and then promoted the program to other local farmers to encourage them to do the same.
Molly Pribble, 13, of Ann Arbor, Mich., a member of the Washtenaw-Lenawee Chapter of the American Red Cross and an eighth-grader at Emerson School, has raised $33,000 to support the American Red Cross by participating in the organization’s annual “Swim-A-Cross” event. Molly, who began swimming in the charity event when she was 8 years old, has also served as the event spokesperson in prior years.
Rachel Stamler-Jonas, 17, of Royal Oak, Mich., a senior at The Roeper School, is a volunteer development and marketing intern for the Detroit Institute for Children. Rachel, who began this position in the summer of 2013, helps maintain the donor database, has written and designed pamphlets and media packets, and has helped to update the organization’s website.
“We applaud each of these young people for their exemplary volunteer service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “They use their time and talents to make a meaningful difference in their communities, and we hope their example inspires others to do the same.”
“By going above and beyond in their volunteer service, these students have brought positive change to communities across the country,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
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. These 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 5, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014. 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, India and China. 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.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) 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 connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, 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 www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW