Missouri's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Kirksville and St. Louis students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Clayton, Ballwin, Forsyth, Pottersville, Hillsboro and Lee's Summit
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Samantha Caraway, 18, of Kirksville and Sarah Eisenman, 13, of St. Louis today were named Missouri'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. Samantha was nominated by Kirksville High School in Kirksville, and Sarah was nominated by Ladue Middle School in St. Louis. 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).
“Now HavenHouse guests of all ages have some good books to read”
Samantha, a senior at Kirksville High School, has been a fundraiser and goodwill ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network for the past four years, as well as a regional Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen who has worked to promote positive behaviors among young people. Samantha became involved with the Children’s Miracle Network after the organization provided significant medical care to her brother and a close friend. Grateful for that care, Samantha vowed to raise as much money as possible for the network. She partnered with Truman State University’s fraternities and sororities to hold a fundraiser that collected $5,000, sponsored “Cheer for a Miracle” camps, and organized father-daughter and mother-son events.
As a Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen, Samantha tries to help young people avoid negative experiences such as depression, substance abuse and victimization by bullies. To do that, she has created several public service announcements and a short documentary, hosted four annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day activities, and served as a spokeperson for Mark Twain Behavioral Health and the Northeast Missouri Suicide Prevention Initiative. “The overall joy and the ability to instill hope is the reason that I use my gifts to give back to children in need and make a positive impact on my community,” said Samantha.
Sarah, an eighth-grader at Ladue Middle School, provided more than 1,000 donated books and created a reading room for a lodging facility that provides accommodations and support to people who travel to St. Louis for medical treatment. During a visit to HavenHouse, Sarah noticed there were very few books for children or adults to read during their stays. “I love reading, and wanted to help others who might not have access to good books,” she said.
Her solution was to launch a book drive at her school, which brought in more than 1,000 books. She sorted all of the books by age level, labeled them, and then recruited friends and family members to help set up several reading areas at HavenHouse. Books for babies and toddlers were placed in a new Dr. Seuss-themed reading room that Sarah designed and decorated. Nonfiction books were delivered to the facility’s computer/reference room, three large bookshelves were filled in an existing library, and extra books were placed in a common living room area. To celebrate the completion of her project, Sarah held a Dr. Seuss pajama party featuring crafts, games and readings from Dr. Seuss books. “Now HavenHouse guests of all ages have some good books to read,” she said.
As State Honorees, Samantha and Sarah 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 Missouri students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Missouri's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Sarah Casteel, 17, of Clayton, Mo., a senior at Clayton High School, is currently the director of Saint Louis Food Rescue, a teen-based service organization that collects leftover food from food establishments and delivers it to soup kitchens and other organizations that feed the hungry. Sarah is responsible for volunteer recruitment, food delivery scheduling and coordinating all logistics with donors and food pantries.
August Clark, 18, of Ballwin, Mo., a senior at Marquette High School, has helped to raise $23,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society over the past three years by participating in the organization’s Light the Night charity walk. August, who founded “Team Dude” for the event in honor of his uncle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, recruited 30 walkers, made and sold T-shirts, created a website and made “Team Dude” an official school club.
Arthur Hale, 18, of Forsyth, Mo., a senior at Forsyth High School, founded “Art to the Third” in 2012, a free program for children interested in music, theater, dance and acting through the Boys & Girls Club. Arthur, who founded the program to share his passion for the theater, manages the program, creates lesson plans and organizes performances.
Joseph Reyes, 18, of Pottersville, Mo., a senior at Dora High School, founded “Snackpack Backpacks,” a program that provides food for students on subsidized lunch to eat during the weekends. Joseph, who had experienced food insecurity himself, raised nearly $9,000 in sponsorship dollars and recruited a team of volunteers to help pack and deliver the weekend backpacks for 134 children at a local elementary school.
Ryan Schweitzer, 18, of Hillsboro, Mo., a senior at Hillsboro Senior High School, founded “Adopt a Grandfriend,” a program that matches young people with residents at the local nursing home. Ryan and his young volunteers spend countless hours each week playing games, telling stories, lending an ear and building friendships with their grandfriends.
Maryn White, 13, of Lee's Summit, Mo., a seventh-grader at Summit Lakes Middle School, has raised nearly $10,000 to support the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation by coordinating the team “Maryn’s Magnificent Marchers” to walk in its charity event. Maryn, who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 10 and was named an “Honored Hero” for the Kansas City Take Steps Walk in 2013, is currently working with the foundation to advocate for awareness, funding and affordable healthcare coverage.
“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