South Carolina's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Summerville and Myrtle Beach students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Rock Hill, Chester, Spartanburg and Hilton Head
COLUMBIA, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Katie Stagliano, 15, of Summerville and Isabella Hixenbaugh, 14, of Myrtle Beach today were named South Carolina'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. Katie was nominated by Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, and Isabella was nominated by Forestbrook Middle School in Myrtle Beach. 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).
“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.”
Katie, a freshman at Pinewood Preparatory School, established a nonprofit organization that has helped kids across the country create and maintain more than 60 vegetable gardens, which have yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce to feed people in need. Katie’s gardening career began in the third grade when she brought home from school a cabbage seedling that she’d been given to plant. “I tended to my cabbage and cared for it until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds,” said Katie. She then took her cabbage to a local soup kitchen, where it helped feed 275 hungry people. “I began to wonder: if one cabbage could feed 275 people, imagine how many people a whole garden could feed,” she said.
She planted a garden in her backyard, then asked her school’s administration if she could start a student-run garden there. Her school gave her a plot of land the length of a football field, and classmates pitched in to help. Realizing she needed to learn more about gardening, Katie contacted the master gardener at Clemson University, who took her under her wing. Before long the garden was supplying fresh produce to the soup kitchen and a local homeless shelter, which soon planted its own garden with Katie’s help. Five years later, “Katie’s Krops” is a nonprofit organization that has raised almost $200,000 through a website and individual and corporate donations to provide grants for 9-to-16-year-olds who want to grow vegetables to feed the hungry in their communities. Thanks to her efforts, 61 youth-run gardens are growing from Maine to Hawaii. As for Katie’s first garden, it is still flourishing, producing over 3,000 pounds of produce last year for people in need. And when the local soup kitchen closed down three years ago, Katie began offering garden-to-table dinners that have provided a free, nutritious meal to more than 2,000 hungry people. “I am proud to grow healthy food, prevent hunger and empower kids to grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities,” said Katie.
Isabella, an eighth-grader at Forestbrook Middle School, volunteers for a foundation that promotes the emotional healing of traumatized, neglected and abused children by teaching them to ride and take care of horses. Isabella has been helping out at the Fidelis Foundation of Myrtle Beach since it opened in 2010. The organization hosts groups of children at its ranch every Sunday, and Isabella helps show them how to ride, groom, feed and “tack up” the horses there.
She and fellow volunteers also conduct arts and crafts projects with the kids while they’re waiting their turn to ride, and serve snacks. The children “are always very excited when they get their turn to come to the barn and ride,” said Isabella, who also participates in events such as horse shows that raise money for the foundation. “I have learned that not all people have the perfect family with two parents or even any at all,” Isabella said. “The most memorable part to me is seeing almost all of the kids every time walk away with a smile on their face, ready to come back next time.”
As State Honorees, Katie and Isabella 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 South Carolina students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are South Carolina's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Patrick Gorospe, 18, of Rock Hill, S.C., a senior at South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, started “Student2Student,” a one-on-one tutoring program that pairs 13 trained teen volunteers from his school with 13 fourth- and fifth- graders through the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club. Patrick, who earned his Eagle Scout Award for this project, has been visiting the club with his volunteer tutors twice each week, for an hour and half each session since the program began in March 2013.
Joseph Kovas, 18, of Chester, S.C., a senior at Chester Senior High School, raised $6,600 to fund the clean-up and restoration of a veteran’s cemetery and the installation of a granite stone monument honoring all branches of the military. Joseph, who earned his Eagle Scout Award for this project, secured donations and grants, worked with the local Veterans’ Affairs office and cemetery commission, and coordinated the design of the monument with a local stone cutter.
Nina Srivastava, 17, of Spartanburg, S.C., a senior at Spartanburg Day School, raised $69,000 over the past two years by coordinating an annual 5K and one-mile fun run through her school’s ASTRA Club, a girls’ community service organization. Nina organizes all aspects of the event, including recruiting and supervising 60 volunteers and securing sponsorships, and has donated the funds to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition.
Nicholas Wheeler, 15, of Hilton Head, S.C., a sophomore at Hilton Head Island High School, founded “Kids Helping Kids Help the Environment” two years ago, and has since organized more than 550 volunteers to help with nine beach clean-ups and collect 8,000 pounds of trash. Nicholas, who has been volunteering with the Coastal Discovery Museum since he was 8 years old, wanted to provide an outlet for young kids to make a difference while learning how to help the environment.
“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