Maryland's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Gaithersburg and Germantown students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Baltimore, Pasadena, Dunkirk, Gambrills, Ijamsville and Westminster
ANNAPOLIS, Md.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yiyi "Jessica" Li, 17, of Gaithersburg and Ally Salvino, 13, of Germantown today were named Maryland'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. Yiyi was nominated by Richard Montgomery High School in Potomac, and Ally was nominated by Kingsview Middle School in Germantown. 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”
Yiyi, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School, formed an energy-conservation and recycling team that saved her school $20,000 a month in electrical costs, launched several innovative recycling initiatives, and promoted environmental awareness at local events. Yiyi began to care about the environment before emigrating eight years ago to the United States from China, where she witnessed horrendous water pollution and the destruction of natural areas by developers. “These childhood frustrations cemented in my memory and compelled me to do something when I had the opportunity in high school,” she said.
That opportunity came after Yiyi attended a city environmental commission meeting and learned how much energy and resources were wasted in her school district. She went home and formulated a plan to address this problem, and then recruited a dozen friends to help her save energy, increase recycling, and raise environmental consciousness at her school. They volunteered to turn off every light and computer in the building on Friday afternoons, and to stay after pep rallies to pick up recyclable cans, bottles and paper programs. Yiyi’s team also collected discarded wrapping paper and packing peanuts, which they gave to low-budget art classes to use in craft projects. The team has organized and staffed exhibits at science fairs and other events to teach other students about preserving environmental resources. “It is the greatest dividend to see my care translate into a greener piece of earth,” said Yiyi.
Ally, an eighth-grader at Kingsview Middle School, has volunteered enthusiastically to work with students with special needs over the past several years at school and at an annual summer camp. Ally’s elementary school also housed a school for children and teenagers with special needs, so when she was in the fourth grade, she decided to give up one recess a week to spend time with one of the students in a “Buddy Club.”
Ally enjoyed the experience so much that she eagerly volunteered to assist at a camp for the kids the following three summers, helping them with arts and crafts projects and scavenger hunts, playing games and making snacks. She felt her mission was to not only help them have a good time, but also to be a good friend. “I love working with these kids,” said Ally. “I want them to be able to continue to have this amazing summer opportunity.” Ally was very disappointed when the camp was canceled last summer due to lack of funds, but has not let that slow her down. She now assists the staff of the school in a variety of ways several days a week after school.
As State Honorees, Yiyi and Ally 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 six other Maryland students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Maryland's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Shoshana Brody, 15, of Baltimore, Md., a sophomore at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, volunteered as a counselor-in-training for a summer farm camp designed to encourage more girls to pursue careers in farming. Shoshana, who had attended the camp in the past, was responsible for supervising the younger campers as they cared for the cows, goats, pigs, sheep, geese and chickens at Hameau Farm, a small working dairy farm in Pennsylvania.
Rebecca Dobry, 17, of Pasadena, Md., a senior at Northeast High School, raised nearly $700 by hosting a student concert to benefit the Cisco Center, a preschool for children with special needs that was destroyed by fire. Rebecca, who worked toward her Girl Scout Gold Award with the project, also organized a book drive and put together backpacks filled with books and toys that are being used for therapy in the center’s new “Book Nook,” which Rebecca helped to build.
Gretchen Eichelberger, 17, of Dunkirk, Md., a senior at Northern High School, designed a custom library for the children living at the Project Echo homeless shelter and filled it with more than 800 books, educational games and DVDs. Gretchen, who worked toward her Girl Scout Gold Award with this project, also created and framed inspirational artwork to decorate the new library and inspire the children to succeed.
Emma Gregory, 15, of Gambrills, Md., a sophomore at South River High School, worked with five of her friends to raise money to purchase school supplies and books for more than 100 children living in shelters through Mercy Supportive Housing. Emma and her team hosted an ice cream social for the children so they could have fun while picking up their donated supplies.
Marymargaret O'Neill, 15, of Ijamsville, Md., a sophomore at St. John's Catholic Prep, created the website KidsAreHeroes.org in 2008 to showcase how children are making a difference and inspire others to do the same. In addition to managing the website, which features more than 400 children from 17 countries, Marymargaret also sponsors networking events to bring together website followers and motivate kids to serve their communities.
Christiana Sasser, 17, of Westminster, Md., a senior at Westminster High School, has been an active member for the past three years of an improvisational theater troupe that teaches children about important issues like bullying and depression. Christiana and her fellow actors in the troupe, called Foolproof, also perform skits on drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence for a local rehabilitation facility.
“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