WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oklahoma's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Sarah Kellogg, 18, of Yukon and Olivia Kuester, 14, of Coweta, 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. Sarah and Olivia – 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 Sarah and Olivia Oklahoma'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.
Sarah, a senior at Mustang High School, oversees a committee of 48 students that conducts a series of fundraisers throughout the year to support cancer research, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program. When Sarah’s father was dying from cancer, people in their community supported the family by bringing meals to their house. “They showed me that family extends much further than those who live in your home,” she said. “As a result, I spend my time giving back.” Much of that time is devoted to chairing her school’s annual Relay for Life campaign, which raised more than $100,000 last year to fund cancer research and treatment.
In addition to coordinating a 12-hour Relay for Life run/walk, Sarah and her committee raised funds last year by hosting a “powder puff” football tournament, a Halloween party, and a teacher vs. student volleyball tournament. They also produced a video featuring professional and student athletes explaining why they support the fight against cancer. In addition, Sarah has organized her own annual golf tournament for the past several years to supplement her fundraising efforts. Sarah has also collected coloring books and crayons for patients at a children’s hospital, boxed food at a local food bank, served meals to the homeless at a rescue mission, and participated in mission trips to serve the disadvantaged in several U.S. cities.
Olivia, an eighth-grader at Coweta Junior High School, recruits volunteers to help her sew quilts and blankets for children in crisis, make fabric hearts for premature infants and their mothers, and collect winter gloves for kids in need. Three years ago, Olivia met a girl in foster care who had been the victim of child abuse. “The abuse was terrifying, but being placed with strangers was equally traumatic,” said Olivia. “As she confided in me, my heart ached for her and all children suffering from crisis. I knew I had to do something.”
What she did was launch a campaign to provide quilts and fleece blankets to children in group homes, hospitals and homeless shelters. In addition to making these items herself with donated money and supplies, Olivia recruits volunteers at group meetings and on a Facebook page, and gives them sewing instructions. She also solicits volunteers to help her make “comfort hearts” for mothers and babies in neonatal intensive care units. In addition, Olivia conducted a winter drive to collect 1,500 pairs of gloves for students from low-income families and for children at homeless shelters. Olivia estimates that her “Olivia’s Hope” activities have involved about 300 volunteers so far, and have resulted in more than $15,000 worth of donated items.
“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 Oklahoma's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.