Hawaii's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Mililani and Waialua students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Honolulu
HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kayla Kawamura, 17, of Mililani and Hannah Button, 14, of Waialua today were named Hawaii'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. Kayla was nominated by Hanalani Schools in Mililani, and Hannah was nominated by Trinity Lutheran School in Wahiawa. 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).
“Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
Kayla, a senior at Hanalani Schools, launched a service project with a friend, called “The Greatest Gift,” to assemble Christmas goody bags for children at a local homeless shelter and raise money to aid people in third-world countries. A devout Christian, Kayla was searching for a way to not only provide material assistance to those who suffer, but also to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Our ultimate purpose is to provide spiritual healing or salvation for families,” Kayla explained.
To begin their project, Kayla asked family and friends to donate money to buy farm animals and food for impoverished families around the world through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. She then made arrangements to provide goody bags for children at a local homeless shelter. Kayla and her partner hung posters to advertise the project at their school and used donations to purchase school supplies, snacks, small toys, toiletries and books for the bags. They distributed 100 goody bags on Black Friday as a way to provide early Christmas gifts for families at the shelter, along with a gospel note reminding the recipients of God’s love for them. The two are already collecting items for next year’s Christmas goody bag distribution and hope to expand to more shelters. They are also planning a bake sale to raise money for World Vision. “This experience has shown me that I have a desire to help others, and I now want to pursue a career where I can dedicate my life to assisting the less fortunate,” said Kayla.
Hannah, an eighth-grader at Trinity Lutheran School, initiated a project to provide holiday gifts to sick and injured soldiers and their families, and also helped raise money for an event that honored all U.S. service members killed in combat since 2001. Hannah helped start a foundation with her older brother and sister in 2007 after their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in the years since has taken part in numerous activities benefiting children and families in need. But last year, after witnessing a friend’s tearful reunion with her father upon his return from deployment, Hannah decided to start a project of her own: “Operation Holiday Heroes.”
She recruited classmates, friends and neighbors to donate Christmas gifts for sick and injured soldiers, veterans and their families staying at Tripler Medical Center’s Fisher House. Hannah also raised money through a website and neighborhood events, and ended up delivering 50 bags of gifts and household supplies to make Christmas a little brighter for military families. It felt so good, said Hannah, that she now brings gifts to Fisher House on Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July, as well. She also helped raise money to supply American flags, drinking water and portable toilets for Fisher House’s “remembrance run” last fall, held to commemorate the 6,728 Americans killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.
As State Honorees, Kayla and Hannah 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 Hawaii students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Hawaii's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Gary Calzada, 18, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a member of the Oahu County 4-H and a senior at Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School, coordinates “Hawaii Needs Loving,” a youth-led organization at his school that promotes recycling throughout the state. Since he began in 2012, Gary’s group has spread the recycling message throughout Hawaii while raising funds to support school trips, programs and activities.
Kimberly Uehisa, 16, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a junior at Island Pacific Academy, founded a service club at her school in connection with the Travis Manion Foundation, a group honoring the memory of a heroic soldier. Kimberly, who is also a member of her school’s Interact service club and a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, founded the group last year and is planning a variety of care drives and park clean-ups.
“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