New York's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Staten Island and Gasport students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Williamsville, West Islip, Ogdensburg, Brooklyn, Hampton Bays, Briarcliff Manor, New York City and Delmar
ALBANY, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sean Egan, 17, of Staten Island and Haley Maier, 11, of Gasport today were named New York'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. Sean was nominated by Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island, and Haley was nominated by Orleans County 4-H in Albion. 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).
“She had done so much for everyone that I wanted to do something on her behalf”
Sean, a senior at Monsignor Farrell High School, founded an organization of more than 300 students who assist and thank veterans of the U.S. armed forces by sponsoring events, providing goods and services, and visiting military hospitals. After Sean’s father, a firefighter, died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, Sean realized the nation had enemies and that service members were called upon to stop them. “They are the one group most responsible for protecting our way of life, and they deserve our thanks,” he said.
Two years ago, Sean organized a holiday visit with some fellow high school students to a VA hospital in Brooklyn. When he saw how much the wounded warriors there appreciated their company, he formed a group called “Hearing Our Heroes” at his school to support and celebrate veterans. Since then, the organization has grown to include more than 300 students at six schools. They have provided hundreds of books and games for the recreation room at the Brooklyn hospital and donated basic necessities to veterans who leave the hospital homeless. They also bring supplies and gifts to amputee veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland every few months. The group has worked on hundreds of events for service members including lunches, barbecues, parades and sporting events for wounded veterans. After Hurricane Sandy, Sean’s organization helped veterans salvage their properties and rebuild their homes. Last summer, it raised money to send a military family to Disney World. “Hearing Our Heroes” members also do yard work for local vets, and assist with the upkeep at veterans cemeteries and monuments. “It is our duty to ensure that those who have served our nation and defended our precious freedom receive the appreciation and recognition they deserve,” said Sean.
Haley, a sixth-grader at Barker Middle School, has raised money for the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association by making and selling crocheted necklaces in memory of her grandmother, who died from Alzheimer’s disease before Haley was born. Although she never knew her grandmother, Haley often listened to her older sisters talk about what a great grandma she was. “She had done so much for everyone that I wanted to do something on her behalf,” she said. Since her grandmother loved to crochet, and had been assisted in many ways by the Alzheimer’s Association after she became ill, Haley decided to crochet necklaces to support the association’s work.
After her mother taught her to crochet, Haley began spending evenings and weekends making necklaces and then sold them to friends, classmates, family members, teachers and others in her community. She also set up necklace displays at her pediatrician’s office and hair dresser’s salon, and demonstrated her crocheting technique at a county 4-H event. “It makes me happy to know that people like my grandma could benefit from what I do,” said Haley. “I wish I had known my grandma, but somehow I know she is watching over me.”
As State Honorees, Sean and Haley 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 eight other New York students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are New York's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Nicholas Courtney, 17, of Williamsville, N.Y., a senior at St Joseph's Collegiate Institute, co-founded “International Micro-loans of Buffalo” in August of 2012 and has since raised more than $16,000 and distributed more than 61 microloans to small businesses throughout the world. Nicholas, who works with the international charity Kiva to distribute the loans, is responsible for preparing and distributing newsletters to donors, updating the website, and creating fundraising and advertising campaigns for the organization.
Brooke Dipalma, 17, of West Islip, N.Y., a senior at West Islip Senior High School, founded “P.S. I Love You Day” in 2009 to put an end to bullying, depression and suicide – a day that has since been celebrated by 30,000 people in communities across the country. Brooke, who founded the day after losing her father to suicide, created how-to packets for other interested communities, created a Facebook page, and hosted events at her school where everyone wears purple in honor of “P.S. I Love You Day.”
Camille Marshall, 17, of Ogdensburg, N.Y., a senior at Ogdensburg Free Academy, founded “PJs 4 X-Mas” with her sister in 2009, and has since collected 5,700 pairs of pajamas and more than $17,000 in cash to benefit families in need through several local organizations. Camille and her sister, who created the organization to pass along their family tradition of receiving new pajamas every year for Christmas, has also provided clothing to people facing difficult circumstances, including the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Akash Mehta, 16, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a sophomore at Saint Ann's School, founded “Kids for a Better Future” when he was 11 years old, and has since raised more than $50,000 to support a number of projects around the globe. Akash raised the funds with help from a group of volunteers by hosting walkathons, bake sales and other fundraising events, and has donated the money to help build a school for girls in Afghanistan, provide resources for homeless children in New York City and support former child soldiers in the Congo.
Jessica Penna, 18, of Hampton Bays, N.Y., a senior at St. Anthony's High School, founded the first-ever school-based club for “Kids Stock the House,” an organization that supports Ronald McDonald Houses. As president of the 75-member club, Jessica has organized a number of fundraising activities that have raised more than $25,000 to support the local Ronald McDonald House and encouraged other schools to get involved.
Caroline Pennacchio, 15, of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., a sophomore at Briarcliff High School, organized two book donation programs, “Twice Loved Books” and “Donate a Book in Honor of Your Graduate,” that yielded hundreds of books to expand the collection at her local library. Caroline also has organized two used book sales that raised more than $9,000 to support the library and provided hundreds of books to local charities.
Brook Peters, 17, of New York, N.Y., a member of the McBurney YMCA in New York City and a junior at Gramercy Arts High School, created “The Second Day” an educational film about people, including himself, who were personally impacted by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. After that movie, which is now being used by schools and museums around the world, Brook created the “Show Your Strength Campaign,” another video project that showcases stories of perseverance and resilience through the use of inspirational messages from people all over the world.
Pascale Stain, 17, of Delmar, N.Y., a member of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York and a senior at Emma Willard School, founded “Grow, Prepare, Share,” a gardening project for teenagers in the refugee program where she’s volunteered since 2007. Pascale, who wrote the project’s curriculum and a cookbook, created the project to help refugee teens practice English while learning about gardening, cooking skills and nutrition.
“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