WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Missouri's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Brooke Hale, 18, of Forsyth and Kera Mingus, 12, of Kirbyville, 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. Brooke and Kera – 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 Brooke and Kera Missouri'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.
Brooke, a senior at Forsyth High School, is the co-founder and executive director of a free after-school arts program that has been offering weekly classes in musical theatre to elementary and middle level students in her school district for the past four years. As a child, Brooke had to travel 20 miles to Branson, Mo., for singing, dancing and acting lessons. “There were no artistic extracurricular activities at my school for students in elementary and middle school, which forced me to outsource for instruction in the arts,” she said. When her older brother proposed that they address that need, Brooke was quick to take up the challenge.
Together, the two siblings met with school administrators to plan a program called “Art to the Third,” presented the plan to the school board, recruited staff members and high school students to help, and secured funding from the Branson Arts Council. Classes are now taught weekly at the Forsyth Performing Arts Center and include such specialized disciplines as tap dancing, vocal technique, script writing, improvisation and stage combat. In addition, students perform throughout the year at various events in the Forsyth/Branson community, and a musical is produced at the culmination of the spring semester. About 70 students have taken part in the program so far. “There is nothing more gratifying than sharing your passion with others and seeing the lights you spark in other people’s lives,” said Brooke.
Kera, a seventh-grader at Forsyth Middle School, raised more than $11,000 during the first three years of her fundraising campaign to find a cure for juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), a rare autoimmune disease that attacks her muscles and skin. “I know what it is like to be sick and not be able to have a doctor tell you what is wrong,” said Kera. “I am trying to prevent other children from going through what I went through.”
Kera wanted to find a fundraising project that her whole family could take part in. After deciding on a mini-golf tournament, she enlisted the cooperation of a local mini-golf course, recruited sponsors for each hole, and asked local businesses to donate prizes. She also promoted the event through emails, the news media and the website of the Cure JM Foundation. Kera repeated the event the following year, and in 2014, she hosted a raffle and ran a concession stand at flag football games. Kera’s activities have not only raised awareness of a rare disease, but have made important contributions to the research efforts of the Cure JM Foundation. “I’ve learned that I can do something positive with having a disease, and that I don’t have to feel sorry for myself,” she 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.
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 Missouri's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.