Montana's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Missoula and Hamilton students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Helena and Charlo
HELENA, Mont.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nina Gamell, 18, of Missoula and Abigail Beck, 13, of Hamilton today were named Montana'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. Nina was nominated by Sentinel High School in Missoula, and Abigail was nominated by Hamilton Christian Academy in Hamilton. 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).
“lets them know I love and care about them”
Nina, a senior at Sentinel High School, organized a pen-pal program that connected residents of a local retirement home with senior citizens in Japan to broaden each group’s knowledge and understanding of cultural differences between their two countries. Nina has a Japanese mother and an American father. “Growing up with roots on two continents, and two opposing cultural perspectives, I often felt caught between the different worlds in which my parents lived,” she said. That intercultural experience gave Nina an exciting idea while she was teaching English to a group of seniors in Sendai during a trip to Japan with her mother in the summer of 2011.
When she returned to the U.S., Nina began working to establish pen-pal relationships between a group of 20 residents of The Springs retirement center in Missoula and the seniors she had taught in Sendai. In addition to setting up the letter-writing program, which is called the “Faraway Friends Exchange” and is now in its third year, Nina has spent evenings at The Springs making sushi with the seniors, teaching them origami, and discussing Japanese history. Many of them have never traveled outside of the U.S., and were thrilled to learn more about Japan and its customs, Nina said. “This experience has changed their view of the world,” she said. It changed her perspective, as well. “It has taught me the value of intercultural relationships, and I began to understand the value in having parents from two continents,” she said.
Abigail, an eighth-grader at Hamilton Christian Academy, gives free manicures to senior citizens in her community to brighten their days and provide them with some company. Abigail likes spending time with her grandparents, but they live far away. She also loves fingernail art, so when she started brainstorming ideas for a volunteer project, providing manicures to local seniors seemed like a logical answer.
At first, Abigail would go with classmates from school to a nursing home to visit, read and sing with the residents, and while there, she would give a few manicures. Then she started phoning women or approaching them at church, asking if she could set up manicure appointments in their homes. Abigail quickly realized that she would need money to buy supplies, so she made leg warmers and boot cuffs out of old sweaters and sold them to friends and to others at a display she set up at a local dance studio. During her hour-long manicure appointments, Abigail not only does nails, but also forges friendships with her “clients” and “lets them know I love and care about them,” she said. Recently, Abigail also hosted a three-hour “Manis for Grannies” open house at her church featuring manicures, coffee and cookies. She plans to continue her home visits and open houses, and hopes to get some of her friends to join her in the future. “Volunteering could change the life of every person who volunteers,” said Abigail.
As State Honorees, Nina and Abigail 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 Montana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Montana's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Jaden Maharg, 18, of Helena, Mont., a senior at Helena High School, raised nearly $2,000 by coordinating a charity softball game and selling T-shirts to support the family of a friend with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and autism. Jaden decided to host the fundraiser after his friend’s near-fatal bout with pneumonia.
McKalistar Rosenbaum, 17, of Charlo, Mont., a senior at Charlo High School, made 10 quilts and delivered them to people being treated for cancer at the local hospital. McKalistar, who embarked on the project in memory of a dear friend who died from cancer, wanted to do something that would have a direct impact on those with the disease.
“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