WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Shannon McNamara, 16, of Basking Ridge, N.J., was named one of America’s top ten youth volunteers for 2010 in a ceremony today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, winning a national Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her outstanding volunteer service. Selected from a field of more than 21,000 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 the nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Also honored in Washington was Francesca Lanfranchi, 13, of Egg Harbor Township. She and Shannon were named New Jersey’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 of every other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, all of the Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees for 2010 were presented with $1,000 awards, and congratulated by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympic snowboarding champion Seth Wescott. 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.
“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.”
Shannon, a junior at Ridge High School, founded a nonprofit organization called SHARE (www.shareinafrica.org) that has created libraries with a total of 21,000 books for three schools in rural Tanzania, and introduced an after-school reading program for Tanzanian girls who otherwise would have little opportunity for education. While preparing for a family service trip to Tanzania in 2008, Shannon learned about the scarcity of books there and the cultural bias that discourages literacy among girls. “While boys are encouraged to study or play, girls are expected to perform household tasks,” she said. “I think this is unfair. Without an education, a girl’s only option is to marry early, have babies, and this bleak life continues.”
Shannon arrived in Africa with 500 pounds of children’s books, school supplies, and used laptop computers that she had collected from friends and neighbors back home. With help from her family’s volunteer group, she repaired and painted an unused, dilapidated room offered by a primary school for a library, and hired local carpenters to build bookshelves and install windows and a secure door. She then began using the room and her books to teach English and reading to 23 Tanzanian girls.
Shannon returned home more committed than ever to educating young Tanzanians. By organizing fund-raising events, conducting book and school-supply drives, and speaking about her mission at schools, scout meetings, churches and community organizations, she has been able to create three libraries in Tanzania so far, serving more than 2,500 students. And her after-school program now has four teachers helping 150 girls learn to read.
Francesca, a member of the United Way of Atlantic County’s Volunteer Center in Galloway and an eighth-grader at Saint Joseph Regional School in Somers Point, has been volunteering for a no-kill animal shelter since she was 8 years old, and over the past four years has raised more than $20,000 for the facility by organizing an annual dog parade at a local park. “I have always had a passion for animals and wanted to help the homeless animals in my area,” Francesca said.
After volunteering at Beacon Animal Rescue for a year, Francesca wanted to do more to help the homeless dogs and cats who end up there. Her idea: the “Strut for Mutts” dog parade. Now, every year, she posts event fliers all over her community, visits local businesses and writes letters to companies to solicit auction and raffle items, sells raffle tickets and T-shirts, recruits local celebrity judges, and seeks publicity from newspapers and radio stations. Despite the threat of rain, 150 people attended last year’s strut, and 60 dogs competed for prizes and trophies. Francesca donates all of the money raised to pay medical expenses for the animals at Beacon. “Animals cannot defend themselves and so they depend on us to help them,” said Francesca. “I will continue to do anything I can to help homeless animals. I am their voice!”
“Shannon and Francesca 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.
In addition to Shannon, the other National Honorees are:
Charlton Boyd, 14, of Shreveport, La., who has collected thousands of books over the past four years for hospitalized and underprivileged children. He also reads regularly to children at a local YMCA, and gives each one a book to keep. And after hearing that U.S. troops overseas don’t have many books, Charlton started sending to them, as well.
Amy Carlton, 18, of Lake Oswego, Ore., who has raised more than $63,000 over the past two and a half years to combat childhood hunger by recruiting teenagers to help her make and sell jewelry and other crafts. She also organized a fund-raiser at her school for a local food pantry, coordinated volunteer activities at a food bank, and founded a school “Hunger Fighter Club” that now has 70 members.
Brianna Cart, 14, of Owego, N.Y., who started a volunteer effort four years ago that has shipped more than 300 boxes of snacks, toiletries, and other items to 345 American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. She currently spends about 20 hours a week fund-raising, shopping, and packing and mailing boxes, and has a core group of 19 young people and close to 45 local organizations helping her on a regular basis.
Alie B. Gorrie, 17, of Birmingham, Ala., who organized a benefit concert last May that raised more than $420,000 to support low-vision research and rehabilitation services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in appreciation for the life-changing care she received there for a rare congenital condition that limits her vision.
Taylor Graham, 12, of Florence, Ore., who initiated an annual used book sale and “shopping-cart derby” that have generated more than $50,000 worth of food over the past four years to feed hungry families in his town, and have made thousands of books available to kids and others who cannot typically afford them.
Megan Johnson, 19, of Federal Way, Wash., who created several programs over the past eight years that raise money to provide homeless people, hospitalized children, and drug-addicted babies with things that make their lives a little easier. Megan, a South Korean orphan adopted when she was an infant, also has raised money to help four families get off the streets and into their own homes, and become a national ambassador for Shriners Hospitals, where she has received treatment for a serious facial disorder.
Kylie Kuhns, 13, of Mifflinburg, Pa., who established a foundation that has rallied her community to support a variety of original programs benefiting children with cancer, in memory of her older sister. Kylie’s foundation has raised more than $60,000 to fund programs that provide snack boxes, stuffed animals, blankets, gift packs, and other items to sick children.
Austen Pearce, 12, of Maricopa, Ariz., who initiated a community garden that yielded more than 7,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit last spring and summer for 85 needy families in his community, which was hit hard by home foreclosures and unemployment during the recent recession.
Benjamin Sater, 18, of Plano, Tex., who has raised more than $800,000 for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children over the past seven years by hosting an annual children’s golf tournament called “KidSwing.” The tournament is one of the hospital’s biggest fund-raising events, benefiting a different hospital program each year.
The national selection committee that chose the ten National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld of Prudential. Also serving on the committee were Steven Pophal, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & HandsOn 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.; Dr. Randal Pinkett, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners; and two 2009 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Shardy Camargo of Orlando, Fla., and Colin Leslie of Rye, N.Y.
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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