Wisconsin's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Brookfield and Hubertus students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Whitefish Bay, Stevens Point, Mequon, Eau Claire and Hartland
MADISON, Wis.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Patrick O'Grady, 18, of Brookfield and Ted Colwell, 13, of Hubertus today were named Wisconsin'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. Patrick was nominated by Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, and Ted was nominated by Friess Lake School in Hubertus. 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).
“Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
Patrick, a senior at Marquette University High School, taught computer skills to senior citizens for a fee, then used much of the proceeds to buy laptop computers and start a program to teach sixth-graders at a Milwaukee school how to develop mobile applications. After suffering three concussions in three consecutive sports seasons, Patrick heeded a doctor’s advice to find another outlet for his energies. He found it while watching a documentary film about the failures of American education. “Not only did I feel guilty for receiving a private education, but I experienced deep concern for the tens of thousands of students in Milwaukee who lacked the opportunity to prepare for their future,” he said.
Patrick began earning money by teaching computer skills to senior citizens, and within 10 months had enough to begin making an impact on young students’ lives. He persuaded the executive board of Milwaukee College Prep to let him teach programming skills to a group of sixth-graders. He then purchased laptops for the kids and worked with a teacher and a classmate to conduct a weekly class with the goal of having the students design at least one Android app for submission to the Google Play Store by the end of the school year. Patrick hopes his initiative, which he calls iCreate, will “truly allow these kids to rise above their economic condition and achieve without limit,” he said.
Ted, a seventh-grader at Friess Lake School, formed a team of young gardeners that has grown more than 2,000 pounds of vegetables, sold them at a farmers market and raised $3,500 for a local food pantry. Ted started out as a giant pumpkin grower. When he eventually produced a 525-pound pumpkin, he knew it was time to begin using his gardening skills to grow vegetables that could feed the hungry. “Hunger is almost invisible in my immediate community,” he said, “but I am aware that going to bed without enough to eat is a real problem in my community and across the country.”
Ted assembled a team of other young people to plant spinach, lettuce, rhubarb, cabbage, tomatoes and kohlrabi in his backyard. They first prepared raised beds, and then added soil and drip irrigation. As their crops grew, they mulched and weeded the garden, and when the harvest was ready, they washed and prepared the vegetables and offered them for sale at a farmers market. All of the proceeds and leftover produce went to the St. Boniface/St. Gabriel Food Pantry. Ted’s team later planted gardens at school, as well. Ted also has mentored other young gardeners across the country and helped sort food at two large food drives. “Big things can be grown in remarkable ways from impossibly small beginnings,” he said.
As State Honorees, Patrick and Ted 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 Wisconsin students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wisconsin's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Jamie Holm, 15, of Eau Claire, Wis., a freshman at Regis High School, worked with his family to create “Frog4life,” an organization that has raised $10,000 to fund the purchase of games, toys and iPads to help comfort and distract people undergoing cancer treatments. Jamie, inspired by the kindness of others after his brother died from cancer and his mother was diagnosed with the disease, makes monthly visits to a children’s hospital to distribute the gifts.
Noah Katz, 17, of Whitefish Bay, Wis., a junior at Whitefish Bay High School, has helped to raise more than $63,000 since 2010 through “Boxes of Love,” an organization that has baked and sold tens of thousands of treats to support a number of good causes. Noah, who recently took over leadership of Boxes of Love, works with 183 young volunteers who bake, pack and ship the goodies, and donate the funds to help build a schoolhouse through Free the Children and build a well in Kenya, among other causes.
Rachel Ley, 17, of Stevens Point, Wis., a junior at Stevens Point Area Senior High, is one of only fourteen youth in the country on the National Youth Advisory Council for generationOn, a national organization that mobilizes youth to make a difference through service. In her role, Rachel identifies issues, writes grants, seeks donations and recruits volunteers to help with a variety of projects including making blankets for the homeless, collecting used soccer equipment, and preparing weekend breakfast bags for people in need.
Emma Paulson, 18, of Mequon, Wis., a senior at Brookfield Academy, collects and distributes items to comfort other young people with cancer through a program she founded called “A Patient Helping Patients.” Emma, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, founded the organization just ten months later and has since created and delivered bags filled with pillows, blankets, fuzzy socks, lip balm and fun snacks, along with cash donations, to ease the emotional and financial burden cancer creates for many families.
Katharine Rhoten, 15, of Eau Claire, Wis., a freshman at Eau Claire Memorial High School, founded “Katherine’s Wish,” an organization through which she has collected and distributed more than 5,000 new stuffed animals, toys and books to children in hospitals and clinics across Wisconsin and Minnesota. Katharine was comforted by the stuffed animals she received after her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis in 2008, and conducted her first drive that same year; she now has her own donor-advised fund to issue up to $25,000 to hospitals across the country over the next five years.
Jessica Yost, 17, of Hartland, Wis., a senior at Arrowhead Union High School, started the “15:30 Project” in 2010 to help children in need after a mission trip to South Africa with the organization Open Arms. Since then, Jessica has raised $25,000 to fund tuition for three teens through Open Arms, has helped increase exposure about the plight of children living in poverty, and has traveled to South Africa and Ghana to help tutor and mentor 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