WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alaska's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Jenevia Wika, 16, of Anchorage and Isabella Weiss, 14, of Palmer, 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. Jenevia and Isabella – 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 Jenevia and Isabella Alaska'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.
Jenevia, a junior at South Anchorage High School, has helped collect and donate more than 13,000 pairs of jeans for homeless teens in Alaska. Three years ago, Jenevia and her older sister heard about DoSomething.org’s “Teens for Jeans” initiative and, after learning that teen homelessness is a big problem everywhere, they knew they wanted to get involved. “One in three homeless are under the age of 15 years old,” said Jenevia. “I felt it was important to pay it forward and give back to our Alaskan community while inspiring others to do the same.” Two years after the onset of their project, her older sister went off to college and Jenevia took the reins.
This year, to accomplish her goal of helping homeless teens, Jenevia announced her campaign in an article in her church’s bulletin, created posters and fliers promoting the drive, and met with peers, her student council, church groups and business owners to raise awareness of teen homelessness. She then placed collection boxes around the community. After the drive was over, she collected the jeans, brought them home to sort, and delivered them to Covenant House, which provides services for homeless young people. Jenevia is especially proud that she collected 6,569 pairs of jeans this year, substantially more than in both previous years and the second-highest total in DoSomething’s national campaign. “The most memorable part was having thousands of jeans piled up throughout the house,” she said. “I could not help but smile and feel great about the positive difference I was going to make in so many lives.”
Isabella, an eighth-grader at Colony Middle School, interviewed 19 residents of a local senior center to record the memorable experiences of their lives, and also arranged a “movie night” at the center. Isabella and her family began volunteering in the cafeteria of the senior center three years ago, and got to know a remarkable 92-year-old woman there. Isabella visited her regularly to keep her company, and ended up helping her make Christmas gifts for local children. “She showed me the joy of helping the elderly,” said Isabella. So when Isabella was looking for a service project to prepare for her bat mitzvah, she knew she wanted to do something to help the seniors at the center. “I wanted to connect with these seniors, let them know somebody cared, and provide them with an opportunity to share their wisdom,” Isabella said.
After meeting with the center’s management to figure out what she could do, Isabella began meeting with residents and recording them as they shared their memories and wisdom. “They made me laugh, they made me cry, and they really made me think about life,” she said. Isabella then transcribed and edited the stories into typed documents, and began planning a movie night to bring a little fun to the center. In addition to screening “Singing in the Rain,” Isabella served homemade treats, gave a speech, and read two of the stories she recorded. Now, each month, one of her 19 stories will be featured in the senior center’s newsletter for all to read.
“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 Alaska's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.