WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Utah's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Barry Donakey, 18, of Orem and Sophia Goodwin, 14, of Draper, 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. Barry and Sophia – 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 Barry and Sophia Utah'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.
Barry, a senior at Timpanogos High School, provides free lawn care and yard maintenance each week to two elderly couples and two widows in his community who are physically and financially unable to take care of their own yards. In 2014, Barry founded a landscaping company that served more than 50 clients in his and surrounding counties. Two of the lawns he mowed each week, however, belonged to senior citizens who could not afford his service. He found that he enjoyed cutting their lawns “because of the wonderful feeling I would get as I served them,” he said. He decided to expand his free service.
Barry estimates that he now spends about six hours a week mowing and trimming the yards of his four pro bono clients. When necessary, he also weeds, prunes, fertilizes, picks fruit from trees, cleans gutters, and takes care of whatever else needs to be done. Recently, for example, he cut down and hauled away five large spruce trees. Barry uses profits from his commercial business to pay for the gasoline, fertilizer and other materials needed to maintain these yards. He estimates that his labor saves each of these households about $1,200 a year. “I never grow tired of the time I spend in service to these elderly persons,” he said.
Sophia, a member of the Girl Scouts of Utah in Salt Lake City and an eighth-grader at Channing Hall, worked with a partner to make hygiene and school supply bags for 38 preschoolers from low-income families in a project they called “Supplies of Love.” A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Sophia has participated in many community service projects in the past. “These have helped shape me into the person I am today,” she said. “Service to your community not only helps out others but makes you feel good inside.”
After Sophia and her partner decided on their project, they began researching schools that had both a Title One preschool program and a majority of students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. They then drew up a plan, recruited a mentor to help them, raised money, and shopped for items to promote good hygiene and supplies that would help the youngsters be more successful in school. “I love seeing how small amounts of work can make a big improvement in our community,” said Sophia. “It makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy.”
“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 Utah's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.