WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Arizona's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Dustyn Phillips, 17, of Queen Creek and Hope Weng, 13, of Tempe, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 21st annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Dustyn and Hope – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank 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 Dustyn and Hope Arizona'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.
Dustyn, a senior at Basha High School in Chandler, began conducting a wide variety of volunteer projects 11 years ago to benefit kids and families both in the U.S. and overseas. A TV commercial for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that Dustyn saw as a child made a lasting impression. “I was overtaken by a yearning to help,” he said. He began fundraising for the Memphis hospital, and then used his birthday parties to collect toys and money both for St. Jude’s and for an orphanage in Kenya.
Dustyn’s volunteer activities, which he calls “Dustyn’s Kids Helping Kids” (or “DKHK”), expanded significantly three years ago when he formed a chapter at his high school. All together, more than 200 young people in three states now participate in projects organized by Dustyn and fellow students. They have collected backpacks and school supplies for immigrant boys, promoted literacy through book drives, volunteered at Special Olympics events, donated soccer uniforms to kids in Brazil, and raised money to provide low-income families with gifts and essential items at Christmastime. Their most recent project aims to provide more than 1,000 reusable personal hygiene products to girls in Africa. “I hope that later in life I am able to share this love for helping others, as well as the humility and wisdom I have gained,” said Dustyn.
Hope, an eighth-grader at Tempe Preparatory Academy, delivered 100 care packages containing cookies, thank-you cards and a self-penned essay to residents of a veterans home to honor their service. Hope said she never recognized the importance of American veterans until she was assigned to write an essay on the subject and then met a vet at a local VFW post. Afterwards, she said, “I felt that I needed to do something to honor our heroes.”
Hope started by creating a budget to buy enough Girl Scout cookies and thank-you cards for 100 care packages. Then she set about gathering the necessary funds by selling cookies herself, hosting a garage sale, winning a writing contest, saving her Chinese New Year gift money, and soliciting donations. She asked individuals of all ages to fill her thank-you cards with messages of gratitude to emphasize to the recipients that “all of our servicemen and women’s hard work and sacrifices are valued and remembered,” she said. When she delivered her packages to the Arizona State Veterans Home, Hope brought along a group of friends who had helped her with her project, all dressed as “Minions.” “The visit was a huge success for everyone,” said Hope.
“By using their time and talents to better their communities, these young people have achieved great things – and become examples for us all,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to an exemplary group of honorees.”
“These students have demonstrated a truly remarkable level of leadership and commitment in the course of their volunteer service, and it’s an honor to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Michael Allison, president of NASSP. “We commend each and every one of them for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2016 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 29,000 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 21 years, the program has honored more than 115,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. 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 pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
For B-roll of Arizona's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.