WASHINGTON--()--Two California students, Chaya Turrow, 18, of Moorpark and Risha Shukla, 13, of Irvine, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer work during the presentation of The 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The two young people – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympic snowboarding champion Seth Wescott at the 15th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
“The young women and men in America’s schools are nothing short of amazing, and nowhere is this more evident than amongst this year’s award recipients”
Chaya and Risha were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in California last February. In addition to their cash awards, they received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
“The Prudential Spirit of Community honorees give us great hope for the future,” said Dr. Rice. “Their compassion and commitment are already making a real difference in so many lives, and I have no doubt that their leadership will continue to positively impact the world for many years to come.”
Chaya, a senior at Moorpark High School, is playing a leading role in establishing a not-for-profit hospice facility that would provide free end-of-life care to terminally ill patients and their families who cannot afford other options. Chaya learned about the value of hospice services when her grandmother was dying. “As a small child, it was frightening to see my special grandmother get closer to dying every day and my parents struggling to care for her,” she said. Soon after, Chaya began volunteering with a hospice service in a neighboring town, and then recruited her Girl Scout troop to help her make nearly 100 comfort blankets for hospice families.
When plans began to take shape in 2006 for a hospice house called Our Community House of Hope, Chaya organized a jazz festival combined with a karate event that raised more than $1,500 for the facility, and became a spokeswoman for the cause at hospitals, fairs, special events, board meetings, and many city council meetings. She has since helped raise or inspire an additional $75,000 in contributions by soliciting donations at community gatherings and conducting silent auctions at health fairs and “friend-raisers.” In addition, Chaya has collected more than 10,000 new sweatpants and shirts for families in need, distributed Christmas toys for underprivileged children, raised more than $2,000 to purchase plush toys for hospitalized kids, and provided over 600 new comfort toys to county fire and law enforcement departments. “My goal and vision is to inspire those around me, especially my teenage peers, to become involved,” said Chaya. “I am far from being finished.”
Risha, a member of the Girl Scout Council of Orange County and an eighth-grader at Sierra Vista Middle School, created a foundation that seeks to boost the morale of hospitalized children by sending them fun items and recruiting volunteers to entertain them. While in the hospital recovering from an auto islet cell transplant, Risha received a handmade “card quilt” from friends. “The cards brightened up my month-long hospital stay, and I believe they helped me recover,” Risha said. “I wanted other children to feel the same way I did.”
Risha’s “Kids Who Care Foundation” sends card quilts and “smile packs” containing toys, games, books, DVDs, and other items to sick kids in hospitals across the country and as far away as Europe. It also produces a traveling variety show that entertains young patients with singing, dancing, puppet shows, and magic tricks. To find volunteers and funds for these activities, Risha has spoken about her foundation at school assemblies, civic clubs, school district board meetings, and universities. She also solicits donations from local businesses; organizes fund-raising events; and works with scout troops, college fraternities, and national health organizations. “We have reached more than 500 children all over the world with the help of over 1,000 caring youth from our community,” Risha said. “Interacting with these children really makes a huge difference to them and their families, and shows them that we truly do care!”
“Chaya and Risha are wonderful examples of young Americans who care about the world around them and have taken the initiative to improve that world,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We salute their effort, their achievements, and their spirit of community.”
More than 21,000 young people submitted applications for the 2010 awards program last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the Points of Light Institute’s HandsOn Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state were selected in February and flown to Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 15 years ago by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored nearly 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
“The young women and men in America’s schools are nothing short of amazing, and nowhere is this more evident than amongst this year’s award recipients,” said NASSP President Steven Pophal. “They possess a keen intellect, servant hearts, capable leadership skills, and are filled with energy and ambition. NASSP and Prudential are honored to recognize them.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are supported by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Middle School Association, the National School Boards Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, Girl Scouts of the USA, National 4-H Council, the American Red Cross, YMCA of the USA, the Points of Light Institute, and other national education and service organizations.
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, visit www.news.prudential.com.
[Editors: full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at spirit.prudential.com.]
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