Alaska's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Homer and Palmer students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Palmer and Soldotna
JUNEAU, Alaska--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Katherine Dolma, 18, of Homer and Leah Smith, 13, of Palmer today were named Alaska's top two youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Katherine was nominated by Homer High School in Homer, and Leah was nominated by Colony Middle School in Palmer. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 19th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“One of the most memorable moments was when my mother was taking a picture at the end of a performance”
Katherine, a senior at Homer High School, launched a three-day nature camp for fifth- and sixth-grade girls in her community who have experienced traumatic events. After Katherine and a friend presented the idea at a Rotary Peace Forum in Hawaii, she returned home determined to create a camp that would enable her to both share her love of the outdoors with other young people and help girls recover from difficult experiences. “I live at the end of the road in Homer, Alaska, where the land meets the sea,” Katherine said. “I want everyone to love this place as much as I do so it can be preserved for generations to come.”
Katherine arranged for camp facilities at Peterson Bay Field Station on Kachemak Bay, created a schedule of activities, prepared administrative materials, planned menus, collected camp gear, and worked with local agencies to recruit campers. Katherine also spent time researching the effects of trauma on young brains and learned the importance of reporting suspected abuse. One of the highlights of the camp, Katherine said, came when she was teaching the girls to canoe. “I had them take in the peace and quiet of the beautiful mountain lake, so the next time they were experiencing hard times they could come back to this tranquil place in their memory,” she said.
Leah, an eighth-grader at Colony Middle School, has played an important role in her church since she was 4 years old by lending her musical and leadership talents in worship services, youth programs, vacation Bible school and the church’s nursery. She was a featured soloist in the children’s choir at age 4, and went on to lead other children in singing and hand motions. Before long, she was leading adults in song and other musical activities, and playing piano during the main worship service.
Leah devotes several hours each week to her musical endeavors at church, and has recruited friends to help. In addition to playing a leadership role in the musical education of the children who attend her church, Leah devotes time to helping in the church nursery and participating in musical theater events. But she sees her most important role as being someone young children can look up to. “One of the most memorable moments was when my mother was taking a picture at the end of a performance,” said Leah. “A little girl rushed to be in the picture. She said she wanted to be in the photo so that she could grow up and be just like me!”
As State Honorees, Katherine and Leah each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014.
The program judges also recognized two other Alaska students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Alaska's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Ellie Hakari, 17, of Palmer, Alaska, a senior at Colony High School, raised nearly $3,000 to fund the purchase and installation of outdoor exercise equipment at the Alaska Veterans and Pioneers Home in Palmer. After the death of Ellie’s friend Twila, a resident of the home and lover of the outdoors, Ellie decided to implement this project as her Girl Scout Gold Award project in Twila’s memory.
Jessica Roper, 18, of Soldotna, Alaska, a senior at Kenai Central High School, is an emergency response volunteer with Central Emergency Services, where she recently began a project to fund and implement a swiftwater rescue program for all firefighters at four area departments. In just a few months, Jessica has raised more than $2,000 toward her $13,000 goal by organizing a silent auction, a meet and greet event, a spaghetti dinner and a benefit concert.
“We applaud each of these young people for their exemplary volunteer service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “They use their time and talents to make a meaningful difference in their communities, and we hope their example inspires others to do the same.”
“By going above and beyond in their volunteer service, these students have brought positive change to communities across the country,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 5, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India and China. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees on behalf of President Barack Obama.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. 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 full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW