WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Louisiana's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Stanley Celestine, 17, of Cottonport and Ashini Modi, 12, of Shreveport, 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. Stanley and Ashini – 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 Stanley and Ashini Louisiana'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.
Stanley, a junior at Louisiana School for the Agricultural Sciences, is trying to decrease the incidence of childhood obesity and improve the general health of all citizens in his community through an initiative he calls “Healthy Avoyelles.” Three years ago, Stanley formed a nonprofit mentoring program to help elementary students improve their science, technology and math skills. During that project, Stanley noticed that many young children in the rural, economically depressed Avoyelles Parish were obese and had serious health problems often associated with being overweight. “Obese children have a higher percentage of becoming obese adults,” said Stanley. “So I set out to educate families about the health risks associated with child obesity, the many causes, and how to create a healthier lifestyle.”
After researching the subject of obesity, Stanley began planning events and applying for grants to finance his endeavors. The majority of people in his community, he said, are the working poor who often do not have easy access to health services. So Stanley organized a back-to-school festival where families could receive basic health services and information about healthy living. He also started a health and wellness walk to promote exercise, secured a grant to teach healthy cooking to 500 adults, and is planning a youth-run community compost garden to provide better nutrition. Stanley estimates that his health initiative has affected more than 2,000 children to date.
Ashini, a member of the Caddo Parish 4-H and a sixth-grader at Caddo Parish Middle Magnet School, established a 1,500-book library at a local homeless shelter so that the children there could “explore, imagine and find the beauty of reading.” With the help of family and friends, Ashini collected children’s books in her community from individuals, schools, public libraries, a thrift shop and a bookstore. They all went into a room at the Providence House shelter that is now called the “Reading Rainforest,” decorated by Ashini and her family with handmade trees and tropical animals and reptiles.
To further encourage kids at the shelter to use the new library, Ashini started a story time at the facility. Several times a year, usually on a holiday, she reads a book to the children and supervises a related craft project. “Founding the library program and story time has given me a profound joy of giving,” said Ashini. “I sincerely hope that every child at Providence House will utilize the library to develop a love of books, which can open many new doors and possibilities for them.”
“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
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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
For B-roll of Louisiana's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.