WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rhode Island's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Zachary Librizzi, 18, of Warwick and Sarah Coutu, 12, of Pawtucket, 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. Zachary and Sarah – 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 Zachary and Sarah Rhode Island'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.
Zachary, a senior at Saint Raphael Academy, has helped his family raise more than $1 million for diabetes research through an annual charity golf tournament, and has generated an additional $75,000 on his own by leading a team each year in a fundraising walk. Zach, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 10 months old, was so sick of needle injections by the time he was 2-1/2 that he tearfully pleaded with his father to “take my diabetes away.” His parents responded by organizing a golf tournament to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
Within a few years, Zach began speaking at the event, addressing up to 200 tournament attendees about the need to cure diabetes. As he got older, Zach took on an increasingly important role in the golf tournament’s fundraising activities. He also led a walk team that has raised funds for JDRF for the past 14 years, and has garnered additional support for the foundation at hockey events. Zach has mentored newly diagnosed children, too, as a camp counselor. “There might not be a cure just yet, but many advances have taken place over the years and have helped thousands of people with diabetes live their lives a little easier,” he said. The funds he and his family have raised, he added, “I know will help find a cure in my lifetime.”
Sarah, a sixth-grader at St. Cecilia School, makes and sells a variety of craft items to buy supplies for animals at four privately funded no-kill shelters. “I have always had a special passion for animals,” said Sarah. “It’s so sad going into shelters and seeing so many animals who are homeless and are alone in the world.” Since she also has been an avid crafter all her life, Sarah decided she could combine her two passions in a project she calls “Paws for Life.”
She began by asking her principal if she could sell some of her creations at school. Soon, she was carting as many as five overflowing bags to school everyday, containing homemade bracelets, necklaces, earrings, headbands, throw pillows and cat and dog toys. Sarah also has held raffles at school, requested donations instead of gifts on birthdays, sold her crafts at community events, and opened an online shop on Etsy.com. Working on her business for about 15 hours a week, she so far has been able to purchase approximately $1,500 worth of supplies for animal shelters. In addition, she organized an after-school club to engage fellow students in ways to prevent animal abuse and homelessness. “I believe I can change the world if I try hard enough,” said Sarah.
“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 Rhode Island's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.