Delaware's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Newark and Wilmington students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Seaford and Wyoming
DOVER, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Julia Murphy, 17, of Newark and Natalie Onesi, 14, of Wilmington today were named Delaware'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. Julia was nominated by Newark High School in Newark, and Natalie was nominated by Ursuline Academy in Wilmington. 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).
“This problem is large and will take years and the support of the entire state.”
Julia, a junior at Newark High School, played an instrumental role in running a statewide sleeping bag drive that provided bags to more than 1,000 homeless children in Delaware. Julia became involved after learning that there are more than 5,000 children in her state who live in shelters, cars or abandoned buildings. “Before I got involved in this project, I thought of homelessness as an adult statistic,” said Julia. “There is often not much children can do about being homeless. I wanted them to have something of their own that would also keep them warm.”
Julia and a group of students at Newark High joined with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens to recruit schools and businesses across the state to serve as collection points where residents could drop off new or gently-used sleeping bags. To get the word out to potential donors, Julia and her team created flyers, issued press releases, arranged a press conference and gave interviews to the news media. Julia met with politicians and business leaders throughout Delaware to garner support, and got a big boost when Walmart made a donation and agreed to provide sleeping bags at wholesale prices. By the end of the drive, volunteers had collected over 1,000 sleeping bags, which were distributed through homeless liaisons across Delaware. Julia hopes to collect even more sleeping bags in future drives, for there is still much work to be done, she said. “This problem is large and will take years and the support of the entire state.”
Natalie, an eighth-grader at Ursuline Academy, devotes a week every summer to repairing homes for people with injuries or disabilities who otherwise would have to live with leaking roofs or peeling paint. Natalie said she is inspired to volunteer by her church, which teaches its members to “help those who cannot help themselves.” Two years ago, a family friend suggested that Natalie and her brother join a religious retreat that draws 400 students from across the nation to a designated city to work on up to 60 homes whose owners cannot afford to hire workers to make repairs.
During the summer, Natalie gets up at 6 a.m. during her retreat week and heads off to work with other students on their assigned repairs. She then spends the day painting, roofing, building rails, installing siding – whatever repairs are needed. An important part of the program besides the repairs is building a relationship with the people she is helping. At the end of the week, Natalie feels as though she’s made a difference in people’s lives. “I remember leaving the house I was working on for the last time,” she said. As she and her coworkers drove away, the homeowner flashed a wide smile. “I saw him kiss his wife on the head and turn around to stare at his ‘new’ house. Then I saw him waving and crying.”
As State Honorees, Julia and Natalie 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 Delaware students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Delaware's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Sarah Bell, 18, of Seaford, Del., a member of the Sussex County 4-H and a senior at Sussex Technical High School, created “Read to Succeed Delaware!,” a two-part program to help fight illiteracy throughout the state. Sarah, who earned her Girl Scout Gold and 4-H Diamond awards for this project, recruited a team of volunteers to help create 15 literacy centers with free reading resources; she also wrote pamphlets in Spanish and distributed them at the local hospital to parents of newborns.
Marius Sander, 16, of Wyoming, Del., a junior at St. Thomas More Academy, has raised $4,400 for Mom’s House, an organization that provides free childcare to low-income single parents pursuing an education, by hosting violin concerts. Marius, who started his fundraising concerts in 2010, also plays violin and saxophone for nursing homes, hospitals and hospice centers.
“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