WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Arkansas' top two youth volunteers of 2016, Katelyn Bondhus, 18, of Hot Springs and Shelby Dunphy-Day, 12, of Texarkana, 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. Katelyn and Shelby – 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 Katelyn and Shelby Arkansas' 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.
Katelyn, a senior at Hot Springs High School, volunteers with other young people in her church to serve the less fortunate in her community and state, including working on home improvement and maintenance projects, serving lunch to the homeless, and supporting animal welfare efforts. It began in seventh grade when Katelyn learned through her church about the Ozark Mission Project (OMP), a series of weeklong summer youth camps held at locations around Arkansas to help individuals and families in need of minor construction and yard work. When she signed up, “I was just doing it because I was told community service looked good on high school applications,” she said. “After attending one week of the program, I realized why people love to volunteer.”
For the next several years, Katelyn devoted a “very taxing” week each summer to OMP. “It is full of hard work,” she said, “building wheelchair ramps, painting the insides and outsides of houses, and doing yard work.” But she found it to be such “an amazing, life-changing experience,” she recruited all of her closest friends to participate as well. “I learned that volunteering brings joy to both volunteer and recipient of the work,” she said. As a result, Katelyn has made it a priority to get involved in other community service activities. During the summer, she and other members of her church’s youth group package and serve food to homeless people at a community crisis center. They also help with painting, cleanup and Humane Society projects during designated church service days.
Shelby, a sixth-grader at College Hill Middle School Academy of Design, planned two “six-leg” races in downtown Texarkana for dog owners and their pets to raise money for a local animal care and adoption center. When Shelby was a first-grader, the animal shelter brought some puppies and kittens to her school. “I remember asking why they were in the shelter, and what would happen to them,” said Shelby. “The answer I received was heartbreaking.” She decided that day that she wanted to help save animals’ lives. Her first step was to hold a raffle that raised $250 to buy dog food for the shelter, and she has been volunteering for the shelter ever since.
To prepare for her “Six Leg Fun Run & 5K,” Shelby researched races in other communities, mapped out routes, obtained approval and grants from the two Texarkana municipal governments, made presentations to students and community leaders, built a website, and assembled an event committee of six adults. In addition to the two races, Shelby planned a pet contest and a promotion for animal adoption as part of her event, which she hopes will become an annual affair. “Really, there’s only one reason I’m putting this race on,” said Shelby. “It isn’t to get a better grade in school, or because someone is making me do it. It is only because I want to help get the animals in the shelter adopted.”
“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 Arkansas' honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.