Maine's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Falmouth and Baileyville students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Cape Elizabeth and Hermon
AUGUSTA, Maine--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sarah Caldwell, 16, of Falmouth and Brianna Jack, 10, of Baileyville today were named Maine'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. Sarah was nominated by Falmouth High School in Falmouth, and Brianna was nominated by Woodland Elementary School in Baileyville. 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).
“We applaud each of these young people for their exemplary volunteer service”
Sarah, a junior at Falmouth High School, persuaded more than 200 people to take part in the New England Walk to Defeat ALS last fall after her father was diagnosed with the fatal disease, raising $23,000 to help find a cure. Rather than just sit and watch ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, overtake her father, “I set out to do everything I could to try to spread awareness of ALS and raise money to fund research for a cure,” said Sarah.
She started by assembling a team to participate in the ALS Association’s annual fundraising walk in Portland. With help from her younger sister, Sarah reached out to friends, relatives and others through social media, gave interviews to a newspaper and two TV stations, hung posters all over town, and got her whole high school involved in promoting the walk. With more than 200 members, Sarah’s “Team Red Trekkers” ended up being the largest and most successful fundraising team at the ALS walk. The bracelets that Sarah designed for her team members proved so popular that she is now selling them to raise additional funds. And she is working with the ALS Association to increase awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Sarah’s father died just one month after the walk, but he continues to inspire her to, as he often advised, “just keep trekking.”
Brianna, a fifth-grader at Woodland Elementary School, reads to children on a regular basis at area libraries, and formed her own nonprofit organization to facilitate the collection and donation of more than 1,000 books to kids in Maine. “Reading is very important to me, and I want other children to know just how important and fun reading is,” said Brianna. She began to share her love of reading with other children when she was 7 by inaugurating a “story time” at her local library every Tuesday during the school year. During the hour-long sessions, Brianna reads a couple of stories, organizes a craft project, and gives attendees a snack. Sometimes she brings in a guest speaker, too. With a $2,000 grant she recently received, Brianna bought books for the library and craft supplies for her story times, and started fixing up the room where she reads to the children.
In October 2012, Brianna founded a nonprofit called “Maine Books for Maine Kids” with the goal of donating books to children throughout the state, with an emphasis on books by Maine authors. So far, with help from her mother and little sister, she has donated over 1,000 books to kids at schools, public events, a social service agency and a hospital. Brianna also conducts special book readings at various schools during Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and runs a bullying awareness poster contest for kids in her town.
As State Honorees, Sarah and Brianna 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 Maine students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Maine's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Zoe Gillies, 18, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, a senior at Cape Elizabeth High School, founded “Cape Closet,” through which she collected and donated 125 prom dresses for local teens who could not afford to purchase their own. Zoe, who earned a grant to expand her dress project to include body image workshops and mentoring programs, encouraged local schools to sponsor dress drives, worked with local sponsors who donated prom flowers, and coordinated with social workers to identify dress recipients.
Felix Thibodeau, 17, of Hermon, Maine, a junior at Nokomis Regional High School, raised more than $15,000 to support homeless veterans through the Togus VA Hospital in Augusta. Felix, an aspiring soldier and current member of the Junior ROTC program at his school, worked with local businesses to set up donation tables to raise funds to buy clothing, food and hygiene items for homeless veterans.
“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