WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--North Carolina's top two youth volunteers of 2014, Molly Paul, 15, of Raleigh and Leanne Joyce, 14, of Chapel Hill, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 19th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Molly and Leanne – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker 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 Molly and Leanne North Carolina'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.
Molly, a sophomore at Saint Mary’s School, operates an adoption agency for unwanted pet turtles, and also makes and sells soap products to support native turtles, their habitat and conservation education. In 2006, after Molly’s parents let her adopt two red-eared slider turtles as pets, she learned about the problem they posed. Because this species is the most popular pet turtle in the U.S., and because it can live for decades, many are eventually released by pet owners into the wild where they are considered a destructive invasive species because they outcompete native turtles. Molly developed a passion for these creatures, and resolved to help find new homes for pet turtles whose owners could no longer care for them.
Molly created Raleigh Aquatic Turtle Adoption (RATA) and began taking in unwanted turtles, keeping them in an “aquatic lab” in her house and in a large backyard pond. She also set up a website both to solicit unwanted turtles and to find people willing to adopt them. Families from California to New York have taken advantage of Molly’s service. To further her turtle mission, Molly created a line of turtle-shaped soap, body scrubs and soaks, and has raised nearly $10,000 for turtle causes by selling them in gift shops across North Carolina. She also promotes conservation education through her STEM Leadership camp, a summer camp for middle-level students which she runs in partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Leanne, an eighth-grader at Grey Culbreth Middle School, started a nonprofit that has brightened the lives of sick children and teens in 56 pediatric hospitals in all 50 states plus D.C. by raising money for gifts including iPads, gift cards, movies and video games. Born with a congenital heart condition, Leanne was in the hospital awaiting test results when a volunteer offered her a gift from a cart of toys. “I immediately knew that I wanted to give to other hospitalized children,” said Leanne. “It is very scary for children to be in an unfamiliar environment where they have no control over their bodies, hospital routines and treatment.”
In late 2011, Leanne formed her nonprofit organization, “Positive Impact for Kids,” and got to work. She set up a website, developed a presentation to solicit donations, appealed to businesses for raffle items, spoke in front of local clubs, applied for grants, gave interviews to news media, and brainstormed ways to raise money. After researching hospitals, she speaks to a child life specialist at each facility to find out what items would be most appreciated. She found that iPads are particularly useful since they are used to educate young patients about upcoming treatments and to distract and entertain them. So far, Leanne has raised $25,000 to fund her nonprofit. “I plan to continue my nonprofit throughout my life,” said Leanne. “I love the work I do and the personal benefits that come with helping others.”
“These honorees are shining examples of what is possible when young people use their energy and initiative to help their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to recognize their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future.”
“Through their service, these students have not only made a difference in the lives of others – they’ve provided their peers with a powerful example of what it looks like to be an outstanding youth volunteer,” said Barbara-Jane (BJ) Paris, president of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2014 honorees for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2014 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 30,000 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, too. In the past 19 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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