DOVER, Delaware--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jon Osborne, 18, of Wilmington and Genevieve Spence, 12, of Newark today were named Delaware's top two youth volunteers for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 16th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Jon was nominated by Charter School Of Wilmington in Wilmington, and Genevieve was nominated by the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay in Newark. 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 2011 at that time.
Jon, a senior at the Charter School of Wilmington, started a student-run organization in late 2009 that encourages young people to participate in humanitarian activities, and now has approximately 80 students involved in both local and international volunteer projects. Jon formed the Humanitarian League of Delaware because other school service clubs he’d worked with did not have the level of hands-on involvement he wanted. “Not only did I want this opportunity for myself, but I wanted my friends and peers to join in as well,” he said.
Soon after the earthquake in Haiti, Jon launched an effort to send 10,000 meals to victims by the end of 2010. Then, last summer, he and other league members traveled to Haiti to organize a children’s summer camp. On Mother’s Day, the group delivered flowers to the mothers of children who had been slain in Wilmington, inspired by Jon’s aunt, who lost her 22-year-old son a decade ago. “As life-changing as my experience in Haiti was, Mother’s Day was just as eye-opening and impactful,” said Jon. “You don’t necessarily need to go across the world to make a difference. Sometimes, all you have to do is look out your window.” League members volunteer each week at a local food bank and at numerous other places around their community, including a Sunday breakfast mission and retirement homes. To support their activities, Jon’s group has sold rubber bracelets at school and held fund-raising events such as a casino night and a book drive. “Coming together in a group for a cause can be the most meaningful and worthwhile thing you do in your life. I know it has been for me,” Jon said.
Genevieve, a member of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay and a sixth-grader at Cab Calloway School of the Arts, raised money to purchase Wii video games for Alzheimer’s patients at a local nursing home and then spent time visiting and playing with the residents there. When Genevieve was 10, she visited the nursing home with her Girl Scout troop to put on a play. The activity director explained to the girls that the residents had a disease that affected their memory. “I had a Wii at home and liked to play on it,” said Genevieve. “My mother told me that many senior places were getting Wiis because it was easy for older people to get a little exercise while playing familiar games like bowling, baseball, and golf. I decided that I would raise money and buy them a Wii.”
With the help of her mother, Genevieve made friendship bracelets that she could sell. Then she made a presentation to Girl Scout officials, who gave her permission to sell the bracelets at scouting events. She collected items from her home for garage sales and solicited a donation from Best Buy. When she had raised $325, she purchased the Wii for the nursing home and showed residents how to use it. “The first time a resident played, all the residents cheered,” Genevieve said. “When a retired Navy Seal got to parachute jump (on the Wii), he did not want to stop.” Genevieve said she would like to raise money to buy Wiis for Alzheimer’s patients at other facilities in her town. “I have found within me a compassion and emotional connection with them and have learned so much about the disease,” she said.
In addition, the program judges recognized two other Delaware students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:
Matthew McNeill, 14, of Wilmington, a freshman at Archmere Academy in Claymont, collected and donated 2,500 books for the summer reading program at the Delaware Department of Public Libraries in memory of a classmate who died from cancer at age 13. Matthew has been volunteering in the literacy organization “Success Won’t Wait” for the past eight years helping with book drives, stocking new libraries and distributing books to children.
Kelsey Oli, 16, of Dagsboro, a junior at Indian River High School, performed more than 500 hours of community service on projects ranging from making dolls for hospital patients, assisting the Salvation Army, organizing holiday activities at the local VFW, and participating in food drives. Kelsey has helped to raise nearly $15,000 for a variety of charities through active roles in her Girl Scout troop and Key Club.
“These award recipients have proven that young people across America are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “Each and every one of these honorees deserve our respect and admiration, and we hope by shining a light on them, they will continue to serve as an example for others.”
“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. More than 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 2 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 John Strangfeld of Prudential; Jana Frieler, 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 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Shannon McNamara of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Benjamin Sater of Plano, Texas.
In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will be distributing President’s Volunteer Service Awards to more than 2,800 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of President Barack 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 95,000 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 Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Magic Johnson, John Glenn, Madeleine Albright, Rudy Giuliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Peyton Manning, Laura Bush, and Condoleezza Rice. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India.
For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.
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.nassp.org or call 703-860-0200.
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Editors: Graphics depicting the award program’s logo and medallions may be downloaded from spirit.prudential.com.