California's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Atherton and Los Angeles students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Chula Vista, Encino, Long Beach, Redwood City, Moorpark, Santa Rosa, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Diego and Woodside
SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jessica Bird, 18, of Atherton and Claudia Moysset, 13, of Los Angeles today were named California'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. Jessica was nominated by Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, and Claudia was nominated by Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. 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).
“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.”
Jessica, a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory, is a dedicated advocate for young sex-trafficking victims around the world, and last year led a team to Costa Rica to provide girls at a safe house with the means to earn a living so that they would not have to return to prostitution. Jessica had visited the safe house for young prostitutes during a church trip to Costa Rica and became friends with Eva, a young girl whose father began prostituting her when she was 12 years old. After returning home, Jessica invited Eva to her home and hosted a fundraiser that collected $29,000 for the safe house. “But only two weeks later, Eva called me high on drugs,” said Jessica. “She was back into a life of prostitution.” It was then that Jessica realized that the problem of sex trafficking could not be solved by money alone.
Jessica set out to educate herself about the global issue of child prostitution, and then started educating others, including her school community and Girl Scout troop. As a youth delegate to the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, she helped facilitate an all-youth tribunal and addressed U.N. Assembly members on the issue. Then, when her church cancelled its annual service trip to the Costa Rican safe house, Jessica recruited five friends and three adults to make the trip on their own. While there, her team built a chicken coop, refurbished a greenhouse, and created a job training program so that the six girls at the safe house would not have to fall back into prostitution. The girls also were taught how to cook healthy meals, sell produce at a farmers’ market, manage money, and exercise leadership and responsibility skills. “These are the skills they need to know for a life beyond prostitution, skills that my friend, Eva, did not possess,” said Jessica.
Claudia, a seventh-grader at Harvard-Westlake School, has donated 30,000 books to nearly 300 organizations in 20 states through her nonprofit, the “Bookworm Foundation.” Books have always been her passion. One night at the dinner table when she was 6, her mother mentioned that many children do not have access to books and would never develop a love of reading. Claudia was surprised. “I asked my parents if I could donate some of my personal books to children who did not have any,” she said. With the help of her parents, she packed 100 of her books into a box and donated them to a center that provides early education for at-risk children. She also volunteered to talk to kids about why reading is more fun than watching TV or playing video games.
Claudia felt so good about her donation that she knew she had to do more. She started asking family and friends to donate their used books, and then requested that instead of gifts at birthdays and holidays, her family and friends give her cash to buy new books. After her parents helped her start the “Bookworm Foundation,” Claudia started writing letters to solicit donations of both money and books. Over the past seven years, Claudia has collected, packed and hand-delivered books to elementary schools, children’s hospitals, preschools, and shelters for homeless and abused children, and has read books to children in many of these places. “I feel so proud that my work has touched so many lives,” she said. “Many librarians have told me there is no money available to buy even used books. I want to eliminate this horrible situation.”
As State Honorees, Jessica and Claudia 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 ten other California students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are California's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Miguel Aldrete, 13, of Chula Vista, Calif., an eighth-grader at Rancho Del Rey Middle School, began a project to help combat deforestation by funding the planting of 13,000 trees in seven countries. Miguel has published several books and used the proceeds to fund the planting project, as well as an organic garden at his elementary school and other projects, through his nonprofit organization, “Kids 4 Our World.”
Lulu Cerone, 14, of Encino, Calif., a freshman at The Archer School for Girls, founded “LemonAID Warriors” to encourage young people to become philanthropists, then took the program national in 2013 with a “Philanthro Party” contest held in partnership with the toy company Mattel. In addition to her own philanthropy, which involved raising $65,000 to provide clean water in villages in Africa, Lulu co-produces and co-hosts a radio show and a popular YouTube channel featuring the work of young “warriors” across the country.
Jonas Corona, 10, of Long Beach, Calif., a fifth-grader at The New City School, founded “Love in the Mirror,” a nonprofit organization that has provided food, clothing and other assistance to more than 20,000 homeless people. Jonas, who has been helping the homeless since he was 4 years old, founded the organization to prove that even young people can make a big difference.
Liam Hession, 18, of Redwood City, Calif., a senior at Junipero Serra High School, has coordinated various fundraising projects to raise more than $15,000 to fund the installation of nine water bottle refilling units at his school. Liam, who is the president of both the junior class and the Green Club, spent the past year working on his “Plastic Pollution Solution” after taking a surfing trip to Nicaragua and seeing how plastic waste destroyed that country’s pristine beaches.
Divya Manthena, 16, of Moorpark, Calif., a junior at La Reina High School, has raised more than $40,000 for charity over the past four years by hosting three golf tournaments. Divya, an avid golfer, chose to combine her passion for the sport and her desire to help others by coordinating these events to help organizations including the American Red Cross, Special Olympics and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Max Mazur, 18, of Santa Rosa, Calif., a senior at Cardinal Newman High School, co-founded “Operation GOALS,” a charitable organization that helps teens in foster care by paying for educational electronic devices, hearing aids, calculators and study skills classes. Max created a website, partnered with community organizations, and developed a cartridge recycling program that has helped raise more than $15,000 to support the program.
Grace O'Brien, 16, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., a junior at Tesoro High School, founded “Ears for Years” in 2012 to provide solar-powered hearing aids to children in developing countries who are deaf or hard of hearing. Grace, who was inspired to start the nonprofit organization after working at a theater program for deaf children, used money from her own personal savings and from fundraising events through her school’s Ears for Years Club to provide 40 hearing aids for children in need.
Daniel Rosenthal, 17, of Santa Rosa, Calif., a junior at Maria Carrillo High School, created “MAGIC IS MEDICINE,” a program that arranges for volunteer magicians to perform at hospitals, hospices, homeless shelters and other facilities. Daniel, a professional magician, schedules other professional magicians from across the country to perform magic shows to brighten the lives of people with illnesses and disabilities.
Preetam Soundararajan, 17, of San Diego, Calif., a senior at Francis Parker School, founded an online tutoring program, “Education Beyond the Classroom,” that matches high school tutors with K-12 students anywhere in the world. Preetam, who started tutoring with his brother in 2009, wanted to provide these needed services without the added time and expense of travel to tutoring sessions.
Kiran Sridhar, 16, of Woodside, Calif., a junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School, founded “Waste No Food,” a Web-based charity that matches organizations and restaurants that have unused food with organizations that feed the hungry. Kiran, the organization’s executive director, has helped to provide more than 60,000 meals to children, seniors and families in need by securing more than 42 food donors and ensuring that perfectly good food does not go to waste.
“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