WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Lillian Diuble, 11, of Manchester, Mich., was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2014 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 19th annual national award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Selected from a field of more than 30,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Lillian has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Dhivya Sridar, 16, of Novi. Dhivya and Lillian were named Michigan's top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2014 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
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!”
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 starting a Skype tutoring program called “iTutor” and affiliating her efforts with Bridgepointe, a nonprofit organization that links students in Detroit with students in suburban communities. With the assistance from Bridgepointe, 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 her program to other schools.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“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.”
In addition to Lillian, these are the other 2014 National Honorees:
Jessica Bird, 18, of Atherton, Calif., a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory, is a dedicated advocate for young sex-trafficking victims around the world, and last year led a team to Costa Rica to provide girls at a safe house with the skills to build a life outside of prostitution.
Sean Egan, 18, of Staten Island, N.Y., a senior at Monsignor Farrell High School, founded an organization of more than 300 students who assist and thank veterans of the U.S. armed forces by sponsoring events, providing goods and services, and visiting military hospitals.
Elijah Evans, 16, of Youngsville, La., a sophomore at Comeaux High School, works in his community to raise awareness of child abuse and improve the lives of foster children by promoting and hosting an annual Christmas party for children in foster care.
Kaylee Graham, 14, of Florence, Ore., an eighth-grader at Siuslaw Middle School, initiated an annual citywide day of service in her town that has motivated more than 3,000 residents to work on community improvement projects, raise money for charity, donate food, and take part in other volunteer activities over the past three years.
Morgan Guess, 11, of Paducah, Ky., a fifth-grader at Lone Oak Intermediate School, has worked with her mother to focus local, state and national attention on the problem of bullying through a variety of measures, after Morgan herself was bullied.
William Lourcey, 11, of Fort Worth, Texas, a volunteer ambassador with the Volunteer Center of North Texas and a fifth-grader at Trinity Valley School, is the founder and CEO of a service group that organizes fun events to raise money and awareness to fight hunger, and to encourage young people to get involved in their community.
Kinsey Morrison, 17, of Goshen, Ky., a senior at St. Francis High School, is a motivational speaker who’s delivered more than 50 speeches on a variety of topics and helped raise a significant amount of money for dozens of charities.
Katie Stagliano, 15, of Summerville, S.C., a freshman at Pinewood Preparatory School, established a nonprofit organization that has helped kids across the country create and maintain more than 60 vegetable gardens, which have yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce to feed people in need.
Michael Stolzenberg, 14, of Weston, Fla., an eighth-grader at Pine Crest School, has raised more than $225,000 to help rebuild the lives of people who lost limbs when terrorists detonated two bombs during the 2013 Boston Marathon.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Paris of NASSP; Tracy Hoover, president of Points of Light; Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl expert for Girl Scouts of the USA; James E. Starr, vice president for volunteer management for the American Red Cross; Robert Bisi, senior marketing specialist for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Dru Tomlin, director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education; André Wesson, senior program associate for strategic communications, outreach and development for Achieve; Reneé Jackson, senior manager of education programs at the National PTA; and two 2013 National Honorees: Emma Astrike-Davis of Durham, N.C., a senior at Cary Academy, and Joshua Williams of Miami Beach, Fla., an eighth-grader at Ransom Everglades School.
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