Mississippi's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Biloxi and Belmont students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Brandon, Gulfport, Senatobia and Brookhaven
JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Reagan Norwood, 17, of Biloxi and Jonah Holland, 14, of Belmont today were named Mississippi'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. Reagan was nominated by Biloxi High School in Biloxi, and Jonah was nominated by Tishomingo County 4-H in Iuka. 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).
“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.”
Reagan, a junior at Biloxi High School, has collected more than 500 pairs of shoes and socks for homeless people over the past four years through her project, “S.O.S. (Shoes or Socks) for the Homeless.” Reagan first became aware of the problem of homelessness by listening to stories her grandfather told about working at a shelter in Washington, D.C. Then, one Christmas, Reagan’s family took toys to a local mission. “We were allowed to drop off the items, but were not allowed in because my sister and I were minors,” said Reagan. She wondered how children and teens could get involved, and found the answer when a family friend mentioned that there was a real need for shoes and socks at homeless shelters.
In eighth grade, Reagan launched her first drive to collect shoes and socks at her school. Since then, she has held drives at other junior high schools, elementary schools, her high school and a local military base. She created a logo for S.O.S. and a Facebook page to acquaint people with homelessness and publicize her mission. She monitors newsletters and updates from agencies that work with the homeless and passes along information about the current needs of the homeless in her community and state, and ways to help. “S.O.S. is not a program that will save the world,” said Reagan, “but by going through our closets and donating shoes, we can truly make a difference in someone’s life.”
Jonah, a home-schooled eighth-grader, led his 4-H club in raising money to purchase reusable shopping bags that local merchants can use to cut down on the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills. Jonah’s 4-H club had been looking for ways to implement a community-wide recycling program, but because his town is not near a recycling center, a cost-effective solution proved elusive. “It was very discouraging and would have been easy to simply forget about it,” said Jonah. But he wouldn’t let the idea drop. Jonah continued to do research online and joined several forums where people exchange ideas. “One day while shopping, it hit me that so many merchants offer reusable shopping bags,” Jonah said. He wondered, why couldn’t the stores in his community do the same thing?
Jonah presented a plan to the city council that could reduce plastic bag use and promote recycling awareness at no cost to the city. With the town’s endorsement, Jonah and fellow 4-Hers put up a “road block” to ask drivers to donate their change to the cause, and in three hours they raised more than $400. The group then ordered reusable shopping bags in the local school colors and distributed them to local merchants, who sell them to customers for $2 apiece. Not only is the project expected to save merchants money and reduce plastic bag waste, but the $1 profit on each bag sold will be donated to benefit wounded servicemen, said Jonah.
As State Honorees, Reagan and Jonah 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 Mississippi students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Mississippi's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Cara Crawford, 18, of Brandon, Miss., a senior at Jackson Preparatory School, co-sponsored a 5K race shortly after her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, and raised nearly $13,000 for cancer research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Cara, who recruited more than 300 participants and coordinated sponsorships and marketing, developed the project with her friend whose father also received a cancer diagnosis.
Nicholas Myers, 17, of Gulfport, Miss., a senior at Gulfport High School, co-founded “KickItForward,” a program that has assembled and delivered more than 100 gift baskets for young patients undergoing chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital. Nicholas, who wanted to help the kids he met while being treated for leukemia, held drives to collect blankets, Christmas toys, Easter baskets and Halloween baskets.
Anne-Marie Prochaska, 17, of Senatobia, Miss., a member of the Northwest Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross and a junior at Faith Heritage Academy, raised more than $4,500 by hosting a charity 5K race to support the HOPE (Helping Other People in Emergency) Ministry. Anne-Marie, who had volunteered for the organization for several years, created and coordinated the race to support the organization, which provides food, clothing and utility bill assistance to people in emergency situations.
Katelyn Roberts, 18, of Brookhaven, Miss., a senior at West Lincoln Attendance Center, is a passionate community volunteer who has given her time over the years to organizations including a hospital and a local theater. Katelyn, inspired by her compassionate aunt, has volunteered at the King’s Daughters’ Medical Center, served as stage manager for the Brookhaven Little Theatre, volunteered with the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, raised money for the Ronald McDonald House and helped collect toys for Toys for Tots.
“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