WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Colorado's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Nicole Steiner, 17, of Parker and Madelene Kleinhans, 14, of Broomfield, 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. Nicole and Madelene – 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 Nicole and Madelene Colorado'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.
Nicole, a senior at Legend High School, has collected more than $40,000 worth of games, puzzles and books for organizations and individuals in 15 Colorado cities to make life a little brighter for hospitalized children, veterans, kids with special needs, cancer patients, the elderly, homeless people and students from low-income families. When Nicole was a young child, her mother took a “horrific” fall down some stairs at home and became disabled for a number of years. “Many people helped my family with meals, shopping and childcare,” recalled Nicole. “I am inspired by those who served us.” As a result, she decided to give back by doing something for others who are experiencing difficult times in their lives.
Since board games had been a beneficial distraction and social outlet for her mother during her convalescence, Nicole founded “A Game for You” in 2014. She began organizing large school and community donation drives to collect new and gently used board games, puzzles and books. Then, with the help of classmates and other volunteers, she delivered these items twice a year to hospitals, veterans organizations, special-needs classrooms, cancer centers, assisted-living facilities, homeless shelters and school libraries. “Games, books and puzzles help stimulate mental and social interaction,” said Nicole, “which can lead to mental, emotional and physical healing.” So far, more than 6,000 people have received items from Nicole’s collection efforts. Nicole also recently launched a second project called “A Journal for You,” providing journals for all nine high school counseling offices in her school district to distribute to students as a stress reduction and mental health tool.
Madelene, an eighth-grader at Colorado Digital Academy, organizes free bimonthly outings for kids who have critically ill siblings, to provide them with emotional support and show them that they are not alone. When she was 7, Madelene’s younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia and had to endure 38 consecutive months of chemotherapy. “I felt so left out and angry about my brother’s cancer,” said Madelene, “but after attending a camp for siblings of kids with cancer, I realized I wasn’t alone.” She also realized that she could do something to help other children in her situation.
Madelene approached There With Care, a nonprofit serving families in medical crises, to partner with her in developing a program she calls “Heartfelt Hugs.” The program offers free events every other month to young people ages 8-16 who have brothers or sisters with life-threatening illnesses – events such as a skate party with horse-drawn carriage rides, a visit to a pumpkin patch, a pool party and a huge birthday party. Madelene recruits participants by speaking at cancer camps, hosting booths at cancer events, and working through children’s hospitals. Then, with help from family members and friends, she plans all of the events, solicits donations and sponsorships, recruits volunteers, and secures facilities. Participation has grown from just two kids at the beginning, to nearly 50 at a recent event. “In the end, we find that we are all dealing with the same emotions and fears,” said Madelene.
“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 Colorado's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.