Iowa's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Pella and Sioux City students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Iowa City, Farnhamville, Runnells and Ankeny
DES MOINES, Iowa--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Maria Belding, 18, of Pella and Tayvin Schmoll, 13, of Sioux City today were named Iowa'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. Maria was nominated by Pella High School in Pella, and Tayvin was nominated by West Middle School in Sioux City. 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).
“That’s when I pledged that I was going to make a difference.”
Maria, a senior at Pella High School, worked with a partner to create a database that enables community food shelves to share information about excess and expiring supplies, and co-authored an online guide to help high school students conduct food drives for people in need. Maria found it very upsetting when she had to throw away hundreds of boxes of macaroni and cheese at her local food shelf because their expiration dates had arrived. Efforts had been made to contact other food shelves to see if they could use the boxes, but to no avail. “Fighting back tears, I threw away what should have never had to be garbage,” she said.
With a little bit of research, Maria discovered that the waste she had witnessed was not an isolated incident, and that there was no efficient network for food charities to communicate with each other. So she and a friend built an online database that lets food shelves post information about unneeded supplies to a website that is searchable by other organizations serving the hungry. Their database has been approved to begin a pilot phase in Iowa and North Dakota. While working on the database, Maria and her friend also developed a 19-page, full-color booklet to advise student leaders on how to conduct food drives in their schools. This downloadable resource guide has been distributed to students in 26 states and six countries, according to Maria.
Tayvin, an eighth-grader at West Middle School, raised more than $3,000 to fight breast cancer after learning that his fifth-grade teacher had been diagnosed with the disease. When the teacher told Tayvin’s class that she had cancer, “I was devastated and scared because I had recently lost my grandma to leukemia,” he said. “That’s when I pledged that I was going to make a difference.”
Tayvin started by asking 10 people for $10 each so that he could order cancer-awareness bracelets and pencils, which he then sold for $1 apiece. Then he arranged a “Hats on for Cancer” fundraiser at his school that let students make $1 donations in exchange for permission to wear hats on Fridays during the month of May. Once he graduated to middle school, he launched a third fundraiser that awarded prizes to the classes that raised the most money. Finally, Tayvin persuaded a company to donate 1,280 candy suckers, which he sold at local grocery stores. All the money he raised has helped the June E. Nylen Cancer Center provide mammograms to women who cannot afford them, and purchase new radiation equipment. In recognition of his efforts, Tayvin was named a co-ambassador of the Nylen center’s 2013 “Race for Hope” – along with the fifth-grade teacher who had inspired his fundraising.
As State Honorees, Maria and Tayvin 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 four other Iowa students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Iowa's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Anna Hausler, 18, of Iowa City, Iowa, a member of the Volunteer Center of Johnson County and a senior at West Senior High School, helped feed hundreds of families with fresh vegetables she grew in her garden through her project, “Lettuce Feed Others.” Anna, who was inspired after watching the documentary “A Place at the Table,” partnered with the local food bank, secured donations for seeds and supplies, and recruited a team of volunteers who helped maintain and harvest the garden.
Sadie Lewman, 17, of Farnhamville, Iowa, a member of the Webster County 4-H and a senior at Prairie Valley High School, trained her dog Quinn as a therapy dog, then trained to become a hospice volunteer so they could make therapy visits to local nursing homes. Sadie, who was moved when her great-grandfather’s hospice experience allowed him to keep his cat, has been visiting patients with Quinn once a week for more than a year.
Tanner Merrifield, 18, of Runnells, Iowa, a senior at Southeast Polk High School, spearheaded a project to rebuild two campsites in a nearby park that had fallen into disrepair, a project for which he earned his Eagle Scout Award. Tanner spent four months seeking township approvals and donations, purchasing materials, organizing a team of volunteers and rebuilding the campsites to include new trails, fire rings and landscaping.
Quinn Wilson, 17, of Ankeny, Iowa, a senior at Ankeny High School, founded a collection program called “An Instrument in Every Hand” that has donated 41 used or refurbished musical instruments to local children in need. Quinn, himself a recipient of a donated instrument, organized and publicized the instrument drive, recruited a support team to help, and worked with the local music store to coordinate the repairs.
“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