WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jungin Angie Lee, 17, of Naperville, Ill., was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2016 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 21st annual national award ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Angie has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Nicolas Ramkumar, 14, of Champaign. Nicolas and Angie were named Illinois’ top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2016 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Angie, a junior at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has generated nearly $200,000 over the past nine years through annual fundraising events to help find a cure for her rare neuromuscular disease. When she was 15 months old, Angie was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder that causes debilitating and often fatal muscle weakness. In second grade, she made friends with a girl who, upon learning that Angie would never be able to walk, wanted to do something to help. So together they started a nonprofit called “Angie’s Hope” to raise money for SMA research.
The two friends first set out to raise $200 with a penny drive. Then, every year they organized another fundraising event, including garage sales, pasta parties, and most recently a “big ball” soccer tournament. Thirty teams of 8-12 players each compete in this wheelchair-friendly tournament, which also features a disc jockey, photo booth, concessions, cheerleaders, a capella groups, raffles and a silent auction. In addition to coordinating and playing in the tournament, Angie has sought support from local businesses, created promotional videos, and managed a website. In 2015 alone, Angie’s Hope raised nearly $40,000 for the national organization Cure SMA. These efforts demonstrate “how huge a difference individuals can make when they combine efforts,” she said, and have become “a way for our small community to unite to make a change.”
Nicolas, an eighth-grader at University of Illinois High School, has raised nearly $10,000 over the past two years to purchase laptop computers for his old school, Franklin Middle School, with the goal of giving every student access to his or her own machine. “I always try to help whenever I can, and I was taught to always give back,” said Nicolas. In fourth grade, he organized a drive that collected 300 pairs of shoes for people in need. He knocked on doors to seek donations for earthquake victims in Haiti. In addition, he has planted “pollinator-friendly” gardens at home, and at a school and a church.
When Nicolas arrived at Franklin Middle School, he saw the impact his older brother made by raising $1,500 to help the school buy 30 Google Chromebooks. “I saw firsthand how much the computers helped other students and myself, so I decided to expand the fundraising,” he said. Over the past two years, Nicolas asked friends and family members for donations, contacted other potential donors, knocked on doors in his neighborhood, sought sponsorships from local businesses, and ran in a 5k race to fund the purchase of more school laptops. So far, Nicolas has helped his school acquire a total of 360 computers for its 659 students, a majority of whom come from low-income families. “The school is more than halfway to achieving the goal of one-to-one computing,” he said.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“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.”
In addition to Jungin Angie, these are the other 2016 National Honorees:
Kayla Abramowitz, 14, of North Palm Beach, Fla., an eighth-grader at Watson B. Duncan Middle School, has collected nearly 10,000 DVDs, books and other items for 81 hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses in all 50 states through her nonprofit organization, “Kayla Cares 4 Kids.”
Connor Archer, 18, of Stillwater, Maine, a senior at Old Town High School, works to educate the public about autism and the challenges faced by people with autism like himself, and has raised more than $12,000 for organizations that help people with special needs.
Grace Davis, 11, of Louisville, Ky., a fifth-grader at Greathouse Shryock Traditional Elementary School, has helped raise more than $140,000 over the past four years to care for babies born prematurely by distributing piggy banks to students in her community and encouraging them to fill them up.
Maria Keller, 15, of Plymouth, Minn., a sophomore at Orono High School, founded a nonprofit called “Read Indeed” when she was 8 years old, and has since collected more than 1.7 million books for children in need in 50 states and 17 other countries.
James Lea, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, helps brighten the holiday season for children who have recently lost a parent by surprising their families with an anonymous gift each day for 12 days, tied to the theme of the song “12 Days of Christmas.”
Zachary Rice, 13, of Long Valley, N.J., an eighth-grader at Long Valley Middle School, initiated an annual 5K run/walk that has raised more than $50,000 over the past three years to provide gaming systems and other fun distractions for young patients at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown.
Jackson Silverman, 10, of Charleston, S.C., a fifth-grader at Advanced Studies Magnet-Haut Gap Middle School, persuaded a local food bank to let him start a youth volunteer program there in 2013 that has by now packed more than 14,000 weekend lunch bags for kids in need.
Clare Szalkowski, 10, of Dubuque, Iowa, a fifth-grader at Hoover Elementary School, started “Clare Cares” over two years ago to “build friendships and make our community a better place” by organizing projects that benefit bullied children, homeless and hungry people, and others in need of assistance.
Alisha Zhao, 17, of Portland, Ore., a junior at Lincoln High School, created a club at her school to provide services to local homeless people, and then founded a nonprofit organization called “Kids First Project” to expand her efforts and focus on the needs of homeless youth.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Allison of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl expert for Girl Scouts of the USA; Robert Bisi, senior public affairs manager for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Tracy Hoover, president of Points of Light; Reneé Jackson, senior manager of education programs at the National PTA; Maxine Margaritis, vice president of volunteer services for the American Red Cross; Peggy McLeod, Ed.D., deputy vice president, education and workforce development at the National Council of La Raza; Dru Tomlin, director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education; Frederick J. Riley, national director, urban & youth development at YMCA of the USA; and two 2015 National Honorees: AJ Mattia of Washington Township, N.J., a sophomore at Holy Cross Academy, and Morlan Osgood of Loveland, Ohio, a senior at Loveland High School.
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.
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 Illinois’ honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.