Louisiana's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Youngsville and Haughton students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Baton Rouge, Slidell, Sulphur and Keithville
BATON ROUGE, La.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Elijah Evans, 16, of Youngsville and Madison Waldron, 13, of Haughton today were named Louisiana'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. Elijah was nominated by Comeaux High School in Lafayette, and Madison was nominated by Haughton Middle School in Haughton. 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).
“By going above and beyond in their volunteer service, these students have brought positive change to communities across the country”
Elijah Evans, 16, of Youngsville, La., a sophomore at Comeaux High School, works in his community to raise awareness of child abuse and improve the lives of foster children by promoting and hosting an annual Christmas party for children in foster care. Elijah knows from personal experience what it’s like to be abused and to be a foster child. When he was 2, his biological mother put him in a tub full of scalding water. “I was burned from the waist down and lost all the toes on my right foot and my toes on my left foot are webbed together,” he said. He spent nearly three years in foster care until he was adopted by one of the nurses who had cared for him during his many trips to the hospital. By the time he was in eighth grade, Elijah decided he wanted to make people more aware of child abuse, and do something special for foster kids. “One of my dreams I had when I was 8 years old was to give a Christmas party for children in foster care, because I knew what it was like to not get gifts you really want,” he said.
Elijah estimated that he would need $5,000 to host his first Christmas party, so he began fundraising. He spoke about child abuse prevention and shared his story and his plan with local churches, schools, civic organizations and the news media. He recruited volunteers, collected donations, and sold raffle tickets and T-shirts that he designed. The Department of Children and Family Services identified 72 foster kids for Elijah to invite. Each child filled out a Christmas wish list and Elijah went shopping for presents. “Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they received their gifts and watching them enjoy the party made it all worthwhile," said Elijah. Since then, his “Christmas of Hope” party has become a yearly event; he has formed an official organization called “No Use for Abuse” to pursue more initiatives to help abused children and foster children “feel wanted and know someone cares for them.”
Madison Waldron, 13, of Haughton, La., an eighth-grader at Haughton Middle School, works to improve the lives of homeless dogs by fostering homeless puppies, fundraising, and giving presentations to local groups on the importance of having pets spayed and neutered. A dog lover for as long as she can remember, Madison never realized there were unwanted dogs until her mother took her to visit an animal shelter when she was 9 years old. “I always thought that dogs at the shelter were just lost,” she said. “My mom explained to me that some of these dogs would never be adopted and that the shelter would eventually have to put them down.” That thought broke Madison’s heart. “I left that shelter on a mission,” she said.
Her first fundraiser was an iced tea stand, which raised $60 that she used to buy treats and toys for the shelter dogs. She then organized two penny drives and had friends bring dog treats and toys instead of presents to her birthday party. In 2012, she began working as a foster parent for Louisiana Baby Mommas (LABM), a nonprofit organization that rescues pregnant canines and puppies. To date, Madison has acted as foster parent to more than 100 puppies, helping with potty training, vaccinations and worming medication. She is happy to say that all of her puppies have been adopted. When Madison learned that LABM’s bank account was low, she started the “Keep Your Paws Clean” campaign, selling personalized hand sanitizers and raising $1,400 in just two months. Over the years, Madison’s efforts have raised nearly $8,500 for homeless dogs in her community. “The homeless dog population is an epidemic,” Madison said. “I encourage people looking for a new pet to check the local shelters and rescues first. Adopt Don’t Shop!”
As State Honorees, Elijah and Madison 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 Louisiana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Louisiana's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Chase Brouillette, 16, of Baton Rouge, La., a sophomore at Catholic High School, coordinated a team that produced mini-biographical videos for more than 30 patients at a local nursing home for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Chase, who had volunteered in nursing homes in the past and developed an interest in helping dementia patients reclaim as much memory as possible, recruited a team of friends who worked closely with nursing home officials and patients’ families to create long-lasting video memories.
Isabel Caballero, 14, of Slidell, La., a freshman at Mount Carmel Academy, founded the “Care and Cure Foundation,” a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $1,000 to benefit the American Association of Cancer Research. Isabel, who wanted to honor her grandmother, has made and sold rainbow bracelets and created a website, and is now in the process of planning a festival to raise awareness.
Bryttani MacNamara, 15, of Sulphur, La., a freshman at Sulphur High School, founded “Operation Hope,” an organization run completely by teenagers with the goal of ending human trafficking and slavery. Since its founding in 2012, Bryttani has organized a charity walk, coordinated lemonade stands, held awareness events at hotels and truck stops, and raised $500 to support the “End It Movement.”
Isaac McFarland, 16, of Keithville, La., a member of the Caddo Parish 4-H and a junior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School, founded “Game Changers Let’s Tackle Hunger,” a campaign that helped provide more than 1,000 customized tackle boxes filled with healthy breakfast food to children in need. Isaac also organized a food drive that yielded two tons of items for his local food bank, made and served jambalya at a soup kitchen with meat from his family’s farm, and created an ambassador program where young mentors teach others about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise.
“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