Alabama's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Birmingham and Prattville students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Decatur, Gallion and Birmingham
MONTGOMERY, Ala.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kimya Loder, 18, of Birmingham and Laura Grace Henry, 11, of Prattville today were named Alabama'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. Kimya was nominated by Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School in Irondale, and Laura Grace was nominated by Prattville Christian Academy in Prattville. 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.”
Kimya, a senior at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School, created a business etiquette and goal-planning forum to encourage preteen girls to dream big and make plans to reach their goals. Kimya traces her program back to her experience as a 7-year-old Brownie Girl Scout, when she first realized the value of service and the opportunities available to women in today’s world. As a scout, “I began to understand the importance of sisterhood and girl power,” she said, and “learned that success is accomplished through a dedication to bettering the lives of others.”
Over the years, Kimya participated in leadership programs, debating tournaments, empowerment conferences and other activities that gave her the knowledge, skills and inspiration to create “It’s Your World – Change It” in 2012. At her first forum, Kimya led nearly a dozen girls in a discussion of goals, obstacles and the importance of planning. Then the girls described their personal dreams on a “vision board,” outlining college, travel, career and other ambitions. “When each girl presented her vision board, I saw the same excitement in their eyes about life that I had seen when I was a young Girl Scout,” Kimya said. A key objective of Kimya’s forum is to make girls aware of business and professional fields in which women are under-represented, and to help them think about careers they might not otherwise consider. “My goal is to inspire young girls to dream big, and open doors of opportunity not previously opened,” said Kimya.
Laura Grace, a fifth-grader at Prattville Christian Academy, has volunteered nearly 2,000 hours and raised more than $10,000 for local, state and national charities since the age of 5, most recently collecting funds to build and furnish a clubhouse for children displaced by domestic violence. She has established her own nonprofit foundation to promote youth volunteerism. “My parents always taught me that anything good that has ever happened began with one person taking one step to make things better,” said Laura Grace. So she has volunteered eagerly over the years for a wide variety of organizations including the Children’s Miracle Network, the American Red Cross, a local food bank and an animal shelter.
After volunteering at a shelter for victims of domestic violence, Laura Grace concentrated on creating a children’s clubhouse at the facility. “The children I saw were so sad and scared,” she said. “I knew I had to give them a place that would put a smile on their faces.” She met with a local builder to design the clubhouse, and then raised money to build it by selling lemonade, conducting garage sales, and writing letters to solicit donations. The funds she collected also were used to buy a TV, DVD player, movies, games, art supplies, books, pajamas and personal care bags for children at the shelter. The new amenities were officially unveiled at a grand opening last October, attended by Alabama’s first lady and several elected officials.
As State Honorees, Kimya and Laura Grace 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 Alabama students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Alabama's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Ashley Archer, 18, of Decatur, Ala., a senior at Decatur High School, has raised nearly $1,400 with her aluminum can recycling project, “Cause We Can,” and plans to donate the funds to help dig a well in the Dominican Republic. Ashley, who developed the plan for her project after a trip to the Dominican Republic, has secured the help of a recycling company, promoted the project throughout her community, and made and sold T-shirts to help raise awareness and funds.
Laure Bender, 17, of Birmingham, Ala., a senior at The Altamont School, collected toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss to create and distribute 500 dental health kits for kids at a summer camp for children in need. Laure, who volunteered as a camp counselor in the summer of 2012, approached local dentists and community groups for their support to promote dental health among the campers.
Mary-McClain Colgrove, 13, of Gallion, Ala., an eighth-grader at Demopolis Middle School, has organized a number of “Dress A Girl Around the World (DAG)” events, where she and her volunteers have made 53 dresses with DAG labels on the front – a signal to would-be human traffickers that girl in the dress is being well-cared for by an organization. Mary-McClain also started a DAG Club at her school and raised $5,000 to rescue human trafficking victims by hosting an adult spelling bee.
Constance Howard, 17, of Birmingham, Ala., a senior at Vestavia Hills High School, organized the “Tuck in Your Neighbor” drive and collected 120 sets of new sheets, 133 new towels, 172 books and 89 stuffed animals for the Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center. Constance coordinated the event, promoted it through local media and organizations, sorted and delivered the items, and earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for this project.
“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