WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kristin Brandt, 17, of Lock Haven was named one of America’s top ten youth volunteers for 2008 in a ceremony today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, receiving a national Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her outstanding volunteer community service. Selected from a field of close to 20,000 applicants across the country, she received 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 in Washington was Sean McAdam, 13, of Lewisberry. He and Kristin were named Pennsylvania’s top youth volunteers in February, and were recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, along with the top two youth volunteers of every other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, the Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees for 2008 were presented with $1,000 awards, and congratulated by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. The honorees also received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 13 years ago by Prudential Financial, Inc. to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 80,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
“Kristin and Sean are inspiring examples of young Americans who care deeply about the needs of others and who have taken the initiative to help meet those needs,” said Prudential Chairman Arthur F. Ryan. “By honoring them, we hope not only to give them the recognition they so richly deserve, but also to inspire others to follow their example.”
Kristin, a senior at Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, initiated a 16-month project to build a modular home and haul it 1,200 miles to Mississippi, where it was presented to an 80-year-old woman who had lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. After the storm receded, Kristin was impressed by all of the food, water, clothing and medical supplies that were being donated for the victims, but began to wonder about their long-term needs. “Where would all these people live after the television cameras and media saturation disappeared?” she asked. “It was then that I began to think how I could help make a difference.”
After obtaining approval from her school district, Kristin recruited a faculty advisor and formed a school club called “Homes of Hope.” She sent out nearly 1,000 letters soliciting help from every business, civic organization and religious group in her county, delivered speeches at community meetings, and caught the attention of local news media. As contributions began to trickle in, she organized a holiday concert, football ticket raffles, “Teacher Dress-Down Days,” and other fund-raising events.
With more than $20,000 in hand, as well as donated materials and services from many businesses, Kristin and her club’s vice president recruited 20 students from her school’s vocational program to help them construct a two-bedroom house on the high school grounds. When it was finished, a local company offered to transport the new home to Pass Christian, Miss. “We watched as this home was set on its new foundation,” said Kristin. “It was overwhelming to see the gratitude as I handed Mrs. Ashley the keys to her new home.”
Sean, an eighth-grader at Allen Middle School in Camp Hill, has helped his adoptive family nurture and mentor more than 100 foster children in their home since he was a young boy. Sean was a foster child until adopted at the age of 3. “I now have this great life and owe it all to foster care and this wonderful family,” he said. “Foster kids need a lot of love and attention, and I am happy that I can contribute some of this to them.”
When new foster children come into his home, Sean tries to figure out their unique needs and challenges, and then works to befriend them and gain their trust so that they’ll feel comfortable talking about their problems. “I let them know they can count on me for help and leadership when things get tough,” he said. He eagerly shares his time and possessions with his foster brothers and sisters, and always remembers how important it is to serve as a good role model for them. In addition, Sean asks his peers at school and on his baseball and football teams to accept and include his foster siblings in their activities. “No child should go without someone who cares for them, loves them, and wants to teach them right from wrong,” Sean said. “I am looking forward to working with many more foster kids, and I am excited about the challenges they bring.”
Applications for the 2008 awards program were submitted last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Volunteer Centers affiliated with the Points of Light & Hands On Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state and the District of Columbia were announced in February. These 102 State Honorees are in Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.
Ten of the 102 were named America’s top ten youth volunteers for 2008 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters today. These National Honorees received additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies for the schools that nominated them, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for charities of their choice. [The ceremony can be viewed at www.prudential.com/spirit.]
The other nine National Honorees are:
Kristen Allcorn, 18, of Sedalia, Mo., who founded a soup kitchen that provides a hot evening meal five days a week, serving needy residents at tables as if they were eating in a restaurant. Called The Community Café, Kristen’s kitchen has served more than 12,000 meals since December 2006.
Bria Brown, 13, of Miami Gardens, Fla., a five-year cancer survivor who recruited friends, classmates and her Girl Scout troop to help her conduct a drive in her community to collect teddy bears, which she personalizes and delivers to other young cancer patients to bring them hope and encouragement.
Shanna Decker, 17, of Plainview, Minn., who has made more than 600 visits to young cancer patients over the past nine years to give them hope and inspire them with her own cancer experience, which resulted in a leg amputation. She also is a frequent speaker at events across the country, and has participated in activities that have raised more than $120,000 for sick and disadvantaged kids.
Talia Leman, 13, of Waukee, Iowa, who started an organization called “RandomKid” that seeks to educate, motivate and unify young people around the world to work on a broad spectrum of pressing needs. Her projects have raised money for hurricane victims, helped build a school in Cambodia, and provided clean water in Africa.
Jenna Machado, 17, of Boulder, Colo., who founded a nonprofit organization to increase awareness about depression and suicide prevention, after a cousin took her own life. Jenna has delivered community presentations on the warning signs of depression and suicide, conducted an education program in middle and high schools, and raised money to provide treatment sessions for at-risk teens.
Riley Miller, 14, of Bowling Green, Ky., who has organized an annual citywide day of lemonade sales for the past three years to raise money for childhood cancer research, after losing two little brothers to leukemia. Last year, Riley managed 200 volunteers and 29 lemonade stands, collecting more than $19,000 and bringing her three-year total to $50,000.
Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, 16, of Cleveland, Tenn., who collects CDs and DVDs and sends them out every week to American soldiers serving in combat zones. More than 200 organizations across the country have joined her “Tunes 4 the Troops” campaign, and over 170,000 discs have been shipped to boost the morale of U.S. troops overseas.
Mark Rinkel, 12, of Aurora, Colo., who raised more than $16,000 to provide medical service dogs for his little brother and other children suffering from type I diabetes. To raise the money, he operated a lemonade stand at community events last summer, and built a Web site to solicit donations.
Joey Rizzolo, 13, of Paramus, N.J., who organized a “Freedom Walk” last September that drew more than 450 local residents to join in remembering the lives lost on 9/11, including many in his own town. Joey’s event also was dedicated to thanking first responders, U.S. service members and veterans for saving lives and protecting our freedom.
The national selection committee that chose the ten National Honorees was co-chaired by U.S. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Arthur Ryan of Prudential. Also serving on the committee were actor Richard Dreyfuss; Alma Powell, chair of the America’s Promise Alliance; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & Hands On Network; Amy B. Cohen, director of Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Kathryn Forbes, national chair of volunteers, American Red Cross; Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; Barry Stark, president of NASSP; and two 2007 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Kelly Davis of West Bath, Me., and Kelydra Welcker of Parkersburg, W.Va.
NASSP President Barry Stark said: “The young people in this country are capable of doing some extraordinary things given the time and the opportunity. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is one of the great showcases of their amazing acts of kindness and selflessness. We are pleased to once again join Prudential in honoring them for their accomplishments.”
In addition to the organizations above, 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, the National School Public Relations Association and many other national youth and service organizations.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals – the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders – provides its members with the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders. NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of youth through its programs and student leadership services. NASSP sponsors the National Honor Society™, the National Junior Honor Society™, the National Elementary Honor Society™, and the National Association of Student Councils™. For more information on NASSP, NHS, NJHS, NEHS or NASC, visit www.principals.org.
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader with approximately $631 billion of assets under management as of March 31, 2008, has 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 more than 50 million individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth. The company’s well-known 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.prudential.com.
[Editors: full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at www.prudential.com/spirit.]