WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Massachusetts' top two youth volunteers of 2016, Katie Curran, 18, of Pocasset and Lauren Eppinger, 14, of Grafton, 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. Katie and Lauren – 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 Katie and Lauren Massachusetts' 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.
Katie, a senior at Sturgis Charter Public School, founded an organization three years ago that conducts free social science workshops to teach civics and leadership skills to middle school students and help them become more involved in their communities. “With zero dollars and a dream,” Katie was inspired to create “Project Next Generation” (PNG) after reading that most people eligible to vote in recent elections did not. “I feel that the issue is important because my generation will be taking on the mantle of leadership one day,” said Katie. She envisioned an organization that would provide the tools to enable them to do just that by teaching skills that are not traditionally acquired in the classroom.
To begin, she created a website (ProjectNextGeneration.org). She then applied for grants, developed curricula for her workshops and contacted the media to publicize her organization. One of Katie’s workshops was a United Nations program, where each participant was assigned a country that he or she had to represent during a debate. Another was a camp at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, where students were immersed in the political process, designing a policy platform, running a campaign, debating, and writing speeches to give at a mock political convention. In addition, Katie has individually mentored hundreds of middle school students, and has represented her organization at youth leadership events both in the U.S. and overseas.
Lauren, an eighth-grader at Worcester Academy, sold stuffed bears at her school for Valentine’s Day and used the proceeds to buy needed items for an organization that comforts children grieving the loss of a loved one. Lauren, who has initiated several drives and service projects in the past, decided to sell her “Bear-grams” at school after learning that the Children’s Friend Grief Support Center needed to replace some of its worn stuffed “comfort” animals and buy supplies. “I thought about how much I would want something soft and fluffy to comfort me if I had lost a loved one,” said Lauren. Since Valentine’s Day was coming, she decided a great way to raise money would be to sell something cuddly with a personalized message attached.
After Lauren got her principal’s permission and recruited two friends to help, she contacted a company that sells small stuffed animals in bulk and asked for a donation. The company gave them 96 bears. Lauren and her friends made posters and sent emails to publicize their project, then began taking orders and wrote messages from the purchasers and attached them to their bears. When all their Bear-grams were ready, Lauren recruited more students to deliver them around campus. Lauren took the $420 in proceeds to local stores to buy the items needed by the grief support center. She said she plans to continue her fundraising efforts in the future.
“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 Massachusetts' honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.