WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Virginia Newsome, 17, of Lexington, Ky. was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2013 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 18th annual national award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Selected from a field of more than 28,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Virginia has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Madison Roy, 10, of Louisville. Madison and Virginia were named Kentucky’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2013 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Virginia, a senior at Lafayette High School, created a nonprofit organization in 2011 that has donated $50,000 worth of visual and performing arts supplies to schools that cannot afford them. Virginia attends a performing arts high school, where she is an actor and singer. “I have seen firsthand the benefits of making the arts available to all students,” she said. “Studies show students who participate in the arts do better in school, have fewer discipline problems, higher test scores, and are more involved in their schools and communities.” While attending a leadership conference, Virginia was challenged to find a way to help her community. Knowing that arts programs throughout the country were falling under the sword of budget cuts, she decided to create “heARTS Inc.”
The idea behind “heARTS” is that schools and individuals share supplies they don’t need with others who do need them. “It’s the best form of recycling!” Virginia said. To start her project, Virginia got her friends involved. One designed a logo and the other designed a website. Within a few weeks, she and her classmates had collected $500 worth of crayons, markers, glue sticks and other supplies for a local elementary school. News coverage and Virginia’s use of social media and public speaking opportunities soon brought requests from other schools and organizations. In addition to seeking donations of musical instruments, costumes, art supplies, puppets and craft materials, Virginia fundraises to buy new supplies for schools in need. In its first year, “heARTS” has provided more than $50,000 worth of goods and services that have benefited 4,200 children in the U.S., Haiti, Guatemala and Dominica. Virginia also has expanded her program by appointing area directors in all regions of the country and in Mexico.
Madison, a fifth-grader at St. Raphael the Archangel School, has raised more than $9,000 through the sale of two books that she and her brother wrote to benefit families dealing with leukemia and sickle cell anemia. She also participates in fundraising walks and collects aluminum cans to fight those diseases, and recruits others to join her efforts. When Madison was 7 years old, a teacher spoke to her class about an upcoming walk to raise money to fight leukemia. Madison formed a team that included her teacher. “Later, she died of cancer, and the next year I walked for her,” said Madison. “Whenever I do a cancer walk, I think of her.” But Madison wanted to do more than walk to help those with leukemia. That is when she and her older brother decided to write a book.
She began by taking a writing course and soliciting tips from an experienced author. The Roy siblings’ first book, “Flower: A Girl with Leukemia,” raised more than $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Later, an organization focused on sickle cell anemia asked Madison and her brother to write a book about that disease. To date, this book, “Petethra’s Secret,” has raised $5,000 for Faces of Our Children, Inc. Meanwhile, Madison has continued to raise money for those suffering from leukemia and sickle cell anemia by participating in walkathons and collecting cans. Madison and her brother also launched their own twice-monthly radio show to carry on the work of Faces of Our Children's late founder, who had hosted a broadcast at the same local station.
“It is important that we support the doctors because they are trying to find a cure to get rid of the diseases,” said Madison. “Many children have died. I want to help out to stop the children from dying.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a nationwide youth volunteer recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“We commend these honorees not only for the impact of their service and their spirit of giving, but also for inspiring others to consider that they can make a difference, too,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We congratulate this extraordinary group of youth volunteers.”
“These students are fine examples of what is possible when young people roll up their sleeves and commit themselves to helping others,” said Denise Greene-Wilkinson, president of NASSP. “They have learned early that their contributions can make a real difference, and there is no limit to the great things they can achieve.”
In addition to Virginia, the other 2013 National Honorees are:
Allyson Ahlstrom, 17, of Santa Rosa, Calif., a senior at Cardinal Newman High School, created a full-service clothing boutique that has allowed 250 girls in need to each pick out two brand-new outfits for free over the past three years.
Emma Astrike-Davis, 16, of Durham, N.C., a junior at Cary Academy, founded a program five years ago that has recruited hundreds of students in several schools to create more than 1,000 pieces of art for terminally ill patients in hospice centers, nursing homes and VA hospitals.
Zachary Certner, 17, of Morristown, N.J., a junior at Morristown High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that conducts free sports clinics for children with special needs, along with sensitivity training to help other students understand the challenges they face.
Michael-Logan Jordan, 14, of Kailua, Hawaii, an eighth-grader at Kailua Intermediate School, has donated all of his birthday gifts for the past eight years to children in need; collected Christmas cards, clothing and other items for wounded soldiers; and raised more than $10,000 for the National Arthritis Foundation.
Erica LeMere, 14 of Shreveport, La. an eighth-grader at Caddo Parish Middle Magnet School, founded "Erica's Wish," a nonprofit foundation that has donated more than $5,000 worth of clothing, books and other items to young patients at a local psychiatric facility.
Louie McGee, 12, of St. Paul, Minn., a sixth-grader at Highland Catholic School, leads a team that has raised more than $40,000 over the past six years by participating in an annual fundraising walk to fight diseases that cause blindness, like the one that afflicts him.
Teagan Stedman, 13, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., a seventh-grader at Harvard-Westlake School, organized a series of music events and other activities that raised more than $70,000 for pediatric cancer research.
Cassie Wang, 17, of Lenexa, Kan., a senior at Olathe Northwest High School, leveraged her golf skills to raise money for the rebuilding of homes and businesses in Joplin, Mo. after the devastating tornado that struck that city in 2011, and then chaired three blood drives in her community and launched a student-run nonprofit to benefit disaster victims both in Joplin and in China.
Joshua Williams, 12, of Miami Beach, Fla., a seventh-grader at Ransom Everglades School, created a foundation that has distributed more than 475,000 pounds of food to families in need throughout South Florida.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Greene-Wilkinson of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute and co-founder of HandsOn Network; Donald T. Floyd, Jr., president and CEO of the National 4-H Council; Jaclyn E. Libowitz, chief administrative officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; James E. Starr, vice president for volunteer management for the American Red Cross; Scott Richardson, research analyst for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Dru Tomlin, director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education; Kate Blosveren, associate director for strategic initiatives for Achieve, Inc.; Renee’ Jackson, manager of school relations and diversity at the National PTA; and two 2012 National Honorees: Neha Gupta, a junior at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pa., and Jordyn Schara, a senior at Reedsburg Area High School in Reedsburg, Wis.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer as well. In the past 18 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level. Youth volunteers were invited to apply for 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 28,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) 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 38 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, 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.
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 http://www.news.prudential.com/
[Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW]