Minnesota's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
St. Paul and Eden Prairie students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in St. Paul, Ramsey, Woodbury, Brooklyn and St. Francis
ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Michael Guggenheim, 18, of Saint Paul and Mason Stoltz, 14, of Eden Prairie today were named Minnesota'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. Michael was nominated by Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, and Mason was nominated by Central Middle School in Eden Prairie. 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).
“a motor processing problem that makes it incredibly painful and difficult for me to write and get my thoughts out on paper”
Michael, a senior at Mounds Park Academy, founded his own nonprofit charity when he was 12 years old to teach children in homeless shelters, housing projects and community centers how to type and use computers, and to provide them with their own laptops once they’ve acquired basic computer skills. Michael recognizes the importance of becoming computer literate at an early age because that’s what enabled him to overcome a learning disability called disgraphia. It’s “a motor processing problem that makes it incredibly painful and difficult for me to write and get my thoughts out on paper,” he explained. After struggling through a couple of frustrating years in school, Michael was given the opportunity to use a laptop computer. Writing became easy and he began to excel in class.
Michael’s experience made him want to help kids who don’t have access to computers. “Nowadays if you do not know how to type or have basic computer skills, it is difficult to get a good job and you will be left behind in the world,” he said. He volunteered to teach computer skills to kids at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, where he was living at the time. Then he formed a nonprofit organization, created a website, and began soliciting donations so he could give laptops and software to the kids he tutored. Now living in Minnesota, Michael continues to tutor children each week in St. Paul and Minneapolis, while training and coordinating student volunteers to carry on what he started in Los Angeles. And he continues to give away computers to all of the “graduates” of his innovative educational program.
Mason, an eighth-grader at Central Middle School, has undertaken several projects to improve the experience of young hospital patients, both as a member of the youth advisory council of Minneapolis’ Children’s Hospital and on his own. Mason was grateful for the care received at the hospital by his sister, who spent the first 99 days of her life there after a premature birth. So three years ago, he applied to serve on the hospital’s youth advisory council and has since worked with fellow members to design a “teen room” for older patients, launch a hand-washing campaign to reduce infections, and make an orientation video for new patients.
Mason also worked independently to build 23 educational toy models that show young patients how MRI and CT scans work before they undergo the procedure. He also researched better ways for hospital music therapists to move their equipment from room to room. After two companies agreed to donate materials and labor, Mason helped design and assemble two high-tech music carts, one for the hospital in Minneapolis and another for a children’s hospital in St. Paul. Mason also has advocated for the hospitals and pediatric healthcare by speaking at a middle school, a volunteer banquet, a nursing student panel, and the Minnesota and U.S. capitols. Mason hopes that, because of his projects, “kids who are suffering might find a little ease and comfort.”
As State Honorees, Michael and Mason 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 Minnesota students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Minnesota's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Emily Albert-Stauning, 13, of St. Paul, Minn., an eighth-grader at Capitol Hill Magnet School, celebrated her 13th birthday by organizing and performing at a benefit concert she called “Hope for a Better Day.” Emily, who plans to host additional benefit concerts, raised more than $1,300 to support a homeless shelter called The Family Place, and more than 400 pounds of food for Second Harvest, a program that provides food for the homeless and hungry.
Andrew Floeder, 17, of St. Paul, Minn., a junior at St. Thomas Academy, is the president of “Kids to the Rescue,” an organization that he and his family created in 2005 initially to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, the organization has raised more than $50,000 by reaching out to kids across the country via its website and social media with projects like its annual Valentine’s Day “Send Love” campaign.
Allison Kanyetzny, 18, of Ramsey, Minn., a senior at Anoka Senior High, has raised more than $5,000 over the past eight years with her charitable project, “Allie’s Wish.” Allison, who created “Allie’s Wish” on her 10th birthday to give instead of to receive, has chosen a different project every birthday since 2005 including clothing and food drives, birthday baskets for pediatric patients and monetary donations to St. Jude’s and Feed My Starving Children.
Katherine Lundquist, 17, of Woodbury, Minn., a senior at East Ridge High School, is currently the district governor for the Key Club’s Minnesota-Dakota District, for which she oversees district-wide events and programs that impact 3,500 Key Club members. As district governor, Katherine has selected the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as her district project and is currently supervising related projects being planned at more than 60 Key Clubs.
Olivia Maccoux, 18, of Brooklyn, Minn., a senior at Park Center Senior High School, is a long-time member of the Youth Advisory Council at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. Olivia, who has spent a lot of time at the hospital for treatment of hydrocephalus, has dedicated nearly 1,000 hours since she was 9 years old to the Youth Advisory Council to help make the hospital a more comfortable place for children.
Amelia Tesdahl, 17, of St. Francis, Minn., a senior at St. Francis High School, has been an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Juniors since she was 6 years old and most recently served as the organization’s national vice president for seven states including Minnesota. While vice president, Amelia helped to raise more than $2,000 to support the Veterans’ Creative Arts Festival.
“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