Two Delaware Youth Honored for Volunteerism at National Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank pays tribute to Wilmington and Delmar students

Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank congratulates Micah Freer, 18, of Wilmington (center) and Will Kenney, 14, of Delmar (right) on being named Delaware's top two youth volunteers for 2016 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Micah and Will were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, May 1 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, where they each received a $1,000 award. (Photo: Zach Harrison Photography)

WASHINGTON--()--Delaware's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Micah Freer, 18, of Wilmington and Will Kenney, 14, of Delmar, 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. Micah and Will – 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 Micah and Will Delaware'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.

Micah, a senior at Mount Sophia Academy in Newark, spearheaded a yearlong effort to build a pavilion to be used by church, school and community groups, and by families and individuals who hike, bike and jog at an adjacent state park. In search of a project that would have a lasting impact on his community, Micah brainstormed with officials at his church and came up with the idea of building a pavilion where people could meet, sit and talk. At first, Micah questioned whether the project might be too large an undertaking for a teen. But he decided to go ahead after considering how many people could benefit from it.

To begin, Micah drew up designs of the pavilion and began applying for permits from the city. He recruited volunteer engineers to review and give feedback on his plans, asked professional drafters to make blueprints, and consulted construction experts to ensure that the structure would be built correctly. Then Micah started fundraising, writing letters to individuals and businesses seeking money, materials and discounts. When it was time to begin construction, Micah got hands-on help from 50 volunteers, including church members, Boy Scouts, friends and family. The total cost of building the 18-by-24-foot pavilion was a little over $15,000. “The pavilion was made with steel and quality materials, so it will last for decades,” said Micah. “Every time I see it being used, it brings a smile to my face.”

Will, an eighth-grader at Millsboro Middle School, organized two carnivals that raised more than $15,000 to help fund medical research and benefit patients who have Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. A little girl he knows who has the disease inspired Will’s project. “I decided to have a carnival with activities for all ages so that she could enjoy the fun,” he said. After the first “Will’s Carnival for a Cause” in August 2014 was a success, Will was more determined than ever to raise money and the public’s awareness of Sturge-Weber with a more elaborate carnival.

For his second carnival last September, Will gathered a core group of seven volunteers to help him plan. As chairman of the event, he organized monthly meetings, wrote emails and letters soliciting donations for game prizes and a silent auction, asked businesses to donate food and other items, and recruited fellow football players to help with logistics. In addition to the auction and 23 games, the event included three rides, a petting zoo, food and refreshments, a “dunking booth” featuring football coaches and a county councilman, and an appearance by Miss Delaware. To help people understand more about Sturge-Weber syndrome, Will distributed literature at the carnival and posted information on social media. Most of all, the experience taught him the value of teamwork, said Will. “One person cannot move a mountain, but a village can,” he said.

“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.

For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

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 Delaware's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or harold.banks@prudential.com.

Contacts

Prudential
Harold Banks, (w) 973-802-8974 or (c) 973-216-4833
harold.banks@prudential.com
or
NASSP
Robert Farrace, 703-860-7257

Contacts

Prudential
Harold Banks, (w) 973-802-8974 or (c) 973-216-4833
harold.banks@prudential.com
or
NASSP
Robert Farrace, 703-860-7257