Nebraska's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Ogallala and Elm Creek students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Omaha and Kearney
LINCOLN, Neb.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Phoebe Lockhart, 18, of Ogallala and Audrey Worthing, 13, of Elm Creek today were named Nebraska'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. Phoebe was nominated by Ogallala High School in Ogallala, and Audrey was nominated by Elm Creek Schools in Elm Creek. 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).
“Last year I decided it was time to get out of the audience and join the show!”
Phoebe, a senior at Ogallala High School, chaired a fundraising campaign that collected $135,000 to turn a rundown lecture hall at her school into a state-of-the-art performing arts center. The school’s lecture hall had not been renovated for more than 40 years. “The population and tax base in our small rural community had declined over the years,” said Phoebe, “and the school system was unable to afford the needed updates.” In the fall of 2011, the school’s Interact Club decided to take on the project, and Phoebe volunteered to lead the fundraising effort.
Under Phoebe’s leadership, the club produced publicity materials, made presentations to local organizations, and sponsored events such as school dances and a “Battle of the Bands” concert. A primary focus of the campaign was to persuade local businesses and community members to sponsor new seats for the auditorium, in exchange for a personalized plaque on the back of each sponsored seat. Phoebe also applied for and received seven grants totaling $15,000. In less than a year, enough money had been raised to replace the lecture hall’s seats, curtains, carpeting and sound equipment, and to make the facility handicapped-accessible. It’s now a beautiful, comfortable venue for concerts, assemblies and community events. “I learned that a small town can be powerful, and that a little faith in my generation unleashes a contagious will to achieve,” said Phoebe.
Audrey, a seventh-grader at Elm Creek High School, serves as one of the first junior volunteers at the National Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary in south-central Nebraska, where she helps preserve and educate others about an ecosystem that’s a major roosting site for the majestic Sandhill Crane. “For as long as I can remember, I have loved the Sandhill Cranes!” said Audrey. Her house is on the birds’ migration path, and every year she has the good fortune to watch as thousands fly over her home on the way to nesting grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. “I always know that spring is around the corner when the sky becomes filled with thousands of birds,” she said. “Last year I decided it was time to get out of the audience and join the show!”
With her mother’s encouragement, Audrey put together a resume and sought an interview at the Rowe Sanctuary, which she had been visiting for years with her parents. The sanctuary created the title of “junior volunteer” for her, and “my adventure began,” she said. Now in her second year at the sanctuary, Audrey spends time each month educating visitors about the Platte River and its wildlife. During the crane migration season, she helps teach a weekend class called Crane 101. “One of the most challenging things about volunteering was making sure I had all my facts straight,” said Audrey. “Some of the visitors are serious ‘birders.’” She also works on river and trail cleanup projects, and helps with housekeeping at the sanctuary’s visitor center. “I am having the time of my life!” said Audrey.
As State Honorees, Phoebe and Audrey 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 Nebraska students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Nebraska's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Morgan Coil, 18, of Omaha, Neb., a senior at Millard West High School, has served the past two years as president of her school’s “40 Assets Club,” a leadership and service club. As president, Morgan plans the majority of activities, including an in-depth mentoring program to help children at the Hope Center for Kids develop character and social skills.
Jessie Harris, 16, of Kearney, Neb., a junior at Kearney High School, is an active volunteer with a number of organizations including the historic Frank House at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, the World Theatre and the Buffalo County Historical Society. In addition to serving as a tour guide, working the concession stand and conducting small repair projects, Jessie and a friend co-authored a book on her town’s historic homes with the proceeds going to benefit the UNK Frank House and the historical society.
“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