Oregon's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Portland and Florence students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Ashland, Molalla, Beaverton and Portland
SALEM, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Christopher Younkins, 18, of Portland and Kaylee Graham, 14, of Florence today were named Oregon'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. Christopher was nominated by Westview High School in Portland, and Kaylee was nominated by Siuslaw Middle School in Florence. 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).
“I learned the size of a person doesn’t truly matter”
Christopher, a senior at Westview High School, created a weekly after-school science enrichment program that is helping kids at six elementary schools develop the basic science inquiry skills to be successful in high school. While volunteering in his high school’s tutoring center, Christopher saw “a huge number” of students struggling in their science courses. “In addition to receiving poor grades in science, these students all hated the subject,” he said. “After personally having such amazing science teachers, this seemed unfathomable to me.” Christopher began tutoring at his former elementary school, and when he realized he had the ability to get children excited about science, he knew he needed to expand his reach.
Working with a school district science specialist, Christopher spent many months developing a curriculum of after-school science lessons for elementary students, along with a plan to introduce it into numerous schools. He then began pitching his plan to elementary school principals. “This was by far the most challenging part of the project for me, as I was turned down by several principals before I was even given my first chance to present my idea,” said Christopher. He persevered, and ended up persuading six schools to participate. He then recruited and trained a group of fellow high school students to teach in his after-school program. So far, Christopher’s “Science Stars” program has given approximately 250 grade-school children what they need to become enthusiastic, successful science students.
Kaylee, an eighth-grader at Siuslaw Middle School, initiated an annual citywide day of service in her town that has motivated more than 3,000 residents to work on community improvement projects, raise money for charity, donate food, and take part in other volunteer activities over the past three years. Kaylee grew up volunteering with her family, but when she was 10, she wanted to do something on her own. So she held a garage sale and raised almost $2,000 to stuff 150 backpacks with blankets, toys and other items for children in foster care. “The feeling I had after completing my own successful project was like nothing I have experienced before,” said Kaylee. “I wanted to share that feeling with others.”
She told her mother she wanted to host a weeklong volunteer camp at her house. Her mother said that was too much, but if it was just one day, Kaylee could invite as many people as she wanted. So Kaylee decided to invite her entire community. She presented her idea to the city council, which eventually proclaimed the third Saturday in July as the “Power of Florence Day.” To prepare for the event each year, Kaylee issues press releases, publishes information on her website and Facebook pages, makes videos, shows up at community events, and gives speeches to encourage churches, civic groups and nonprofit organizations to participate. She also sells T-shirts, applies for grant money, and organizes brainstorming meetings. On the actual day of service, Kaylee monitors volunteers and visits each project. To date, Power of Florence Day has sparked nearly 40 service projects, raised more than $25,000 for community causes, and collected over 7,500 pounds of food for a food bank and the Humane Society. “I learned the size of a person doesn’t truly matter,” said Kaylee. “It’s the size of their heart that does.”
As State Honorees, Christopher and Kaylee 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 Oregon students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Oregon's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Isabella Head, 13, of Ashland, Ore., an eighth-grader at Ashland Middle School, was actively involved with her youth group’s project to build 10 garden beds and a greenhouse for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Along with her youth group members, Isabella helped raise money, plant, weed, and harvest the garden, and prepare the fruit and vegetables for distribution to those in need.
Levi Losli, 16, of Molalla, Ore., a junior at Country Christian School, created and implemented the “K.I.D. (Know, Inspire, Do)” program, a leadership development program for children in grades 2-8 that has been presented to nearly 250 students since the first session in 2012. Levi earned a $5,000 grant to fund the purchase of supplies for the program, designed the curriculum, trained a group of volunteers, printed training manuals, and promoted the free program.
Victoria Pence, 17, of Beaverton, Ore., a member of the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington and a senior at Sunset High School, instituted a knitting program in 2011 at Monika’s House, a domestic violence shelter. Victoria, who earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for this project, hosted a collection drive for excess yarn and knitting supplies, and visits the shelter every Saturday to teach the residents how to knit.
Abby Williams, 17, of Portland, Ore., a senior at Grant High School, founded her school’s CHAP Club (Children’s Healing Art Project), a junior program of the larger nonprofit organization that uses art therapy to help children during their hospitalizations. Abby, who recruited 81 student members to join the club, has helped to raise more than $6,000 through grants and fundraising activities that will be put towards the hiring of art therapists to work with the children.
“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