Ohio's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Mason and Beavercreek students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Sagamore Hills, New Albany, Lakewood, Shaker Heights, Norton, Loveland, Tallmadge and Dublin
COLUMBUS, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--John Lund, 17, of Mason and Sydney Copeland, 14, of Beavercreek today were named Ohio'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. John was nominated by William Mason High School in Mason, and Sydney was nominated by Herman K. Ankeney Middle School in Beavercreek. 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.”
John, a senior at William Mason High School, initiated an annual 5K race that has raised more than $8,000 for research into Prader-Willi syndrome, a project motivated by his sister’s experience with a condition that has many similar symptoms. After his sister began exhibiting symptoms including sleep apnea and poor coordination, John resolved to take action. “I knew there had to be some way to help her through this, something I could do to fight for my sister,” he said.
He decided to organize a community 5K race to raise money for the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research and increase awareness of the syndrome. Over his summer vacation in 2012, John planned a race course in a local park, solicited sponsorships from area businesses, and built a website to provide information and facilitate registration. He also publicized his event to local running groups, schools and the families of people with Prader-Willi syndrome; designed and ordered race T-shirts, awards and promotional materials; and recruited a team of 20 volunteers to help him run the event. More than 300 people have participated in the race during its first two years. It’s been “the most gratifying undertaking of my life,” said John.
Sydney, an eighth-grader at Herman K. Ankeney Middle School, launched an annual drive to provide Pillow Pets and red wagons to young patients at Dayton Children’s Medical Center. Sydney’s campaign is called “Jacob’s Wish,” in memory of a 7-year-old boy with cancer who inspired people all over the country to donate Pillow Pets to kids in hospitals. After hearing about the Indiana boy on the radio, Sydney decided to honor him in her community. “I have a heart for children with cancer and was just so inspired by Jake,” she said. “I want to do whatever I can to bring a little brightness and comfort to these children.”
Sydney has conducted her two-week drive each spring since 2011, placing collection bins at area businesses for people to drop off Pillow Pets (stuffed animals that can serve as pillows) or monetary donations. So far, she has collected nearly 400 Pillow Pets for kids at Dayton Children’s Medical Center, plus $3,000 to purchase red wagons, which are used at the hospital instead of wheelchairs. Two friends plan to start drives of their own in Pennsylvania and Georgia, said Sydney, and she hopes her project will spread to other states as well. She wants to make young cancer patients everywhere a little happier. “That’s what Jacob’s Wish is all about: making kids feel comfortable by providing cuddly comfort, one Pillow Pet at a time,” she said.
As State Honorees, John and Sydney 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 Ohio students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Ohio's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Catherine Bruno, 18, of Sagamore Hills, Ohio, a senior at Nordonia High School, co-founded “Knights Caring for Knights,” an organization that has prepared and distributed food donations for as many as 27 families each week since 2011. Catherine, who founded the organization with her sister, coordinates and records donations and expenses, handles the grocery shopping, and packs all the bags every Thursday.
Ama Koranteng, 17, of New Albany, Ohio, a senior at New Albany High School, started “CNgineers,” an engineering program designed to feed the creative minds of inner-city children. Using a $5,000 grant she received from the National Center for Women & Information Technology in 2013, Ama taught 30 young boys and girls how to dream big by teaching them how to take apart old toys and turn them into new devices.
Tyler Krebs, 18, of Lakewood, Ohio, a senior at St. Edward High School, co-founded “Try a Career (TAC),” an extracurricular program at his local middle school that matches interested students with local businesses to further develop career interests. Tyler, who started the program with a friend in the summer of 2013, spent hours meeting with school principals, city officials and business owners to develop the program, and hopes to expand to other school districts in the future.
Monica Nemeth, 17, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a senior at Shaker Heights High School, is the director of Project SAFE (Saving Adolescents from Exploitation), a teen outreach program for anti-human trafficking organization The Imagine Foundation. Monica, who earned the volunteer job after helping the organization with research and fundraisers, is currently working on a movie and curriculum to teach high school students about Internet safety and human trafficking prevention.
Kristin Osborne, 17, of Norton, Ohio, a member of the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio and a senior at Copley High School, has collected hundreds of household items to create transition kits for children aging out of the Independent Living Program at Summit County Children’s Services. Kristin, who has held collection drives, cleaned and stored the donated items, wanted to help these young adults just starting out on their own.
Morlan Osgood, 15, of Loveland, Ohio, a sophomore at Loveland High School, co-founded “STEMs For Youth (SFY),” a summer camp to inspire young people to explore fields in science, technology, engineering and math. Morlan raised $36,000 through grants and tuition donations to support the purchase of robotic equipment used in the camp, and is also responsible for curriculum development, advertising, fundraising, event organization and registration.
Rachel Prior, 11, of Tallmadge, Ohio, a fifth-grader at Munroe Elementary School, founded the “Elm Trail Race,” a community fun run that has raised more than $4,000 since its inception in 2012 to support the Cleveland chapter of United Cerebral Palsy. Rachel, who has a good friend with cerebral palsy, started the fun run because she and other youth are too young to run with the friend’s Akron Marathon team.
Julia Shin, 17, of Dublin, Ohio, a senior at Dublin Jerome High School, created the “English for North Koreans Organization (ENKO),” a nonprofit organization that today has more than 150 volunteer tutors teaching English to North Korean refugees. Julia, who founded the program in 2011 with her brother, created a curriculum, secured sponsors, contacted refugee schools and community centers, promoted the program through a website, and has now expanded the program to other schools.
“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