HARRISBURG, Pa.--()--Ben Zauzmer, 17, of Dresher and Kylie Kuhns, 12, of Mifflinburg today were named Pennsylvania's top two youth volunteers for 2010 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 15th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“By recognizing these honorees, we hope to encourage other young people – our future leaders – and all Americans to think more about the value and importance of volunteering in their communities.”
Ben was nominated by Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, and Kylie was nominated by Mifflinburg Area Middle School in Mifflinburg. As State Honorees, 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 several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2010 at that time.
Ben, a junior at Upper Dublin High School, has raised more than $8,500 to support a summer camp in Mississippi for disabled children by producing and selling a CD of popular Jewish songs. While searching for a Bar Mitzvah project several years ago, Ben discovered Camp Dream Street on the Internet and knew he’d found a worthy cause. Ben subsequently talked to the head of the camp and even traveled to Utica, Miss., to check it out. “I was deeply touched by a camp that made it possible for all kids, regardless of physical abilities, to participate in such a happy, growing experience,” he said.
Eager to support the camp, Ben decided to draw on his love of Jewish music to make a benefit CD. He sent letters to nationally known Jewish performers, asking each to donate a song, and to his surprise, more than a dozen responded positively. He also invited his temple’s junior choir and cantor as well as his own Jewish jazz band to contribute songs. In the end, Ben compiled 18 tracks, typed up liner notes, designed a CD cover, secured copyrights, and had the CDs manufactured. He then began selling his “Mitzvah Music” CD at bazaars, through temple gift shops, and on Amazon.com. Five years later, sales are still generating money to help disabled kids experience the magic of summer camp. “My financial donation from CD sales has helped provide the medical support necessary to run a remarkable camp that finds ways for children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, limb deficiencies, and other physical challenges to swim, play basketball, fish, ride horses, or just laugh like other kids,” said Ben.
Kylie, a seventh-grader at Mifflinburg Area Middle School, established a foundation called “Kelsey’s Dream” that has rallied her community to support a variety of original programs benefiting children with cancer, in memory of her older sister. Although Kylie donated bone marrow to her sister, Kelsey succumbed to leukemia when she was 12. “Because of the impact of this experience, I decided I wanted to help children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and their families,” said Kylie.
With help from family and friends, Kylie created a foundation two years ago and began partnering with local businesses, organizations, and individual volunteers to conduct a series of fund-raising events, including a fall festival, garden tea party, disco dance, Christmas carnival, soda-can tab collections, and more. With nearly $25,000 in proceeds, Kylie initiated programs that provide snack boxes, stuffed animals, blankets, gift packs, and other items to ill children. Kylie’s foundation also gives new toys and clothes to needy children at Christmastime, and supports a summer camp for children with cancer that Kelsey once attended. “I know that Kelsey would be so happy to know that we are doing really good things for others because she was a loving and caring person,” said Kylie.
In addition, the program judges recognized eight other Pennsylvania students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:
Carl Casper, 19, of Levittown, a senior at Bucks County Technical High School in Fairless Hills, created “Keeping Tabs with Carl,” a campaign that has collected more than 2,000 pounds of soda-can tabs, which has enabled him to provide more than $7,000 to support a Ronald McDonald House. Carl began his campaign when he was just 10 years old, after being treated for leukemia and seeing how important Ronald McDonald Houses are to the families of young hospital patients.
Neha Gupta, 13, of Yardley, an eighth-grader at Charles Boehm Middle School, has raised $14,000 since 2004 through her nonprofit organization, “Empowering Orphans,” and has used the money to support children at the Bal Kunj Orphanage in India. Since starting the project, she has been able to create a library at the orphanage, sponsor the annual education of 10 children, host a four-day medical clinic, and provide sewing machines to 10 teen girls to help them support themselves.
Conner Hagins, 13, of Johnstown, a seventh-grader at Westmont Hilltop Middle School, has donated more than 20,000 stuffed animals to hospitalized children around Pennsylvania and in other states. Conner, who started “Cuddles for Kids” in 2006, has secured partnerships with corporations as well as donations from individuals to help fund his program.
Alexandria Hazen, 17, of Pittsburgh, a junior at Baldwin High School, started an annual children’s talent show that has raised more than $20,000 and collected needed items over the past eight years for a local women’s shelter, a food bank, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other charitable causes.
Hollywood Olson, 13, of Mechanicsburg, a seventh-grader at Mechanicsburg Middle School, delivers about 25 speeches each year to students at area schools about the dangers of drinking and driving, drug abuse, and bullying. Hollywood, who has permanent injuries from a car accident caused by a drunk driver, also hosts an annual two-mile road race as a charity event for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Karl Rosario, 17, of Moon, a senior at Sewickley Academy in Sewickley, created “Recycle, Reuse, Revive,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to retrieving discarded material in the United States and sending it to the poor in other countries. His organization has sent $300,000 worth of outdated surgical equipment to a hospital train in India; unused prescription drug samples to clinics in Haiti, Honduras and Africa; and gently used clothes to an orphanage in Mumbai, India.
Ashley Vogan, 17, of Hanover, a senior at South Western High School, spearheads an effort to collect toiletries, clothing, coats, blankets, shoes, and diapers for the needy in her community. She recruited a team of dedicated volunteers, built partnerships with local businesses for donations, and spreads the word about her organization’s efforts in the local media.
Emily Zauzmer, 13, of Dresher, an eighth-grader at Sandy Run Middle School, created and designed a website (EZGreetings.org) to sell personalized singing e-mail grams for any kind of special occasion. Emily, who has severe food allergies, has raised more than $3,000 through her website to support food allergy research.
“People as caring and committed as these young students are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our cities and our nation,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these honorees, we hope to encourage other young people – our future leaders – and all Americans to think more about the value and importance of volunteering in their communities.”
“The young people recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards demonstrate an enormous capacity for giving and reaching out to those in need,” said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “NASSP is proud to honor these student leaders because they are wonderful examples of the high caliber of young people in our nation’s schools today.”
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 affiliates of HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. Nearly 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them – five middle level and five high school students – will be named National Honorees on May 3 by a prestigious national selection committee. These 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.
Serving on the national selection committee will be Strangfeld of Prudential; Steven Pophal, president of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light Institute & Hands On Network; Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the America’s Promise Alliance; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Pamela Farr, the American Red Cross’ national chair of volunteers; Elson Nash, associate director for project management at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2009 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Shardy Camargo of Orlando, Fla., and Colin Leslie of Rye, N.Y.
In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will distribute President’s Volunteer Service Awards to more than 2,800 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of President Obama. The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. Since the program began in 1995, more than 90,000 young volunteers nationwide have been honored at the local, state or national level. Many prominent public figures have assisted in saluting these honorees over the years, including President Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Magic Johnson, John Glenn, Madeleine Albright, Rudy Giuliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Peyton Manning, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and Laura Bush. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Ireland.
For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit spirit.prudential.com.
In existence since 1916, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the preeminent organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. NASSP’s mission is to promote excellence in school leadership. The National Honor Society ®, National Junior Honor Society ®, National Elementary Honor Society™, and National Association of Student Councils ® are all NASSP programs. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, Va., visit www.principals.org or call 703-860-0200.
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU) is a financial services leader with operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Leveraging its heritage of life insurance and asset management expertise, Prudential is focused on helping approximately 50 million individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth. In the United States, the company’s Rock symbol is an icon of strength, stability, expertise and innovation that has stood the test of time. Prudential's businesses offer a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: Graphics depicting the award program’s logo and medallions may be downloaded from spirit.prudential.com.