WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Colorado’s top two youth volunteers of the year, Suzanne Luff, 18, of Colorado Springs and Christina Bear, 14, of Golden, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the presentation of The 2012 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 New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning at the 17th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Suzanne and Christina were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Colorado in 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.
Suzanne, a senior at Colorado Springs Christian High School, created a program called “Hats-4-Hope” that has recruited volunteers to hand-knit 2,900 tiny hats for premature babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit of a local hospital. Suzanne’s brother was given a baby hat when he was born, but it was thin and made out of a sock. She thought she could make something better, and realized how important it is for premature infants to have substantial, warm hats to cover their heads. “The head is the temperature control of the body, and to keep a steady temperature, a premature baby often needs a hat to keep in its body heat,” she explained.
Suzanne contacted a hospital to see if she could donate hats, and then began seeking volunteers among her classmates and Sunday school students to help her knit hats. One of her biggest challenges, she said, is finding reliable, long-term volunteers; many start strong but then lose interest over time. She now has close to 100 dedicated helpers. First, she teaches them how to knit a hat, and then she supplies them with yarn and looms that she obtains from donors. Suzanne started with a goal of producing 1,000 hats by the time she graduated from high school. After a recent delivery, she is now up to 2,900 hats. “I am excited to see what my volunteers and I can do in the next year,” she said.
Christina, a volunteer with Metro Volunteers and an eighth-grader at Colorado Academy in Denver, launched a campaign to educate people about the danger of radon and encourage them to test for the odorless gas in their homes. In the fall of 2007, Christina was looking for an art project to keep her busy on a snowy morning and came across a poster contest focused on radon. “No one in my home knew about radon,” said Christina. “I researched the topic and found that this invisible, tasteless and odorless gas can collect in your lungs and cause lung cancer.” Radon is produced naturally from the decay of uranium in rocks, soil and water, and is abundant in many parts of Colorado, she noted.
After entering and winning the poster contest, Christina decided to make radon education a personal mission. She recruited her little brother to help, and together they conducted a neighborhood survey to gauge awareness of radon. Then they began speaking to city councils in their area, urging them to promote and regulate radon testing, and adopt mitigation standards for new homes. Christina and her brother also met with county and state officials, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations to find ways to work together on radon issues. In addition, they sought news media opportunities, created a website and recorded an original rap song to promote their campaign. “There are things we cannot change about the environment, but radon is one that we can control,” said Christina. “My dream is that kids grow up breathing clean air.”
“Through their extraordinary acts of volunteerism, these students are powerful examples of the way one young person can make a big impact,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
More than 26,000 young people participated in the 2012 awards program last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the 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 17 years ago by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
“These young people have demonstrated remarkable leadership, selflessness and compassion, and they set a fine example for thousands of other students across the U.S. who want to make a difference,” said Ken Griffith, president of NASSP. “The actions of these young volunteers exemplify the best of what America’s youth have to offer.”
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 45 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: Full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at http://spirit.prudential.com.]
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