WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Allyson Ahlstrom, 17, of Santa Rosa, and Teagan Stedman, 13, of Thousand Oaks, were selected as two 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, and then from 102 State Honorees, Allyson and Teagan have each earned the title of National Honoree along with personal awards of $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Allyson and Teagan, who in February were named California’s top youth volunteers of the year, were also recognized last night along with the top two youth volunteers from each other state and the District of Columbia at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. At that event, each of the 2013 State Honorees received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix. The State Honorees each also received silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to this week’s national recognition events in Washington, D.C.
Allyson, 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. Her “Threads for Teens” nonprofit also has also provided 130 girls with backpacks filled with school supplies, and has given out 100 prom dresses. Allyson got her inspiration from a book she received as a Christmas present, which told the stories of teens who had undertaken remarkable service projects. Realizing how important clothes can be to a teenage girl’s self-esteem and dignity, Allyson decided that she would try to make a difference by making new, fashionable clothing available to girls in foster care or other situations of poverty.
She immediately sent letters and email notes to more than 300 companies and stores, asking for clothing donations. Within a couple hours, she had her first donation and the responses grew quickly from then on. “I didn’t know that people would be so inclined to help with something like this,” she said. “When I started out I had no idea I’d get to where I am now.” To date, she has received more than $55,000 in monetary contributions and over $135,000 in clothing donations that include more than 40 national brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Claire’s, Hot Topic and American Eagle Outfitters. When girls make appointments to shop at Allyson’s boutique, located in a local storefront donated by a property management company, they browse through the racks of new clothes and accessories, and pick out two head-to-toe outfits. Next summer, Allyson plans to transform a large truck into a mobile boutique and take it on a 48-state tour to outfit one thousand additional girls.
Teagan, 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. Four years ago, Teagan discovered that the brother of a girl in his school carpool had cancer and was feeling very isolated. “I wanted to do more than ask ‘How is Alex doing?’ all the time,” he said. “I knew Alex liked to play music, so I thought if I put on a benefit concert, that would lift his spirits and the money raised would go to help all kids with cancer.”
Teagan figured a “battle of the bands” would attract the most interest, so he called the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles “and somehow they agreed to host the concert,” he said. Teagan then posted flyers at a local music school to invite bands to compete, and persuaded Guitar Center to donate guitars and help recruit celebrity judges. Ten youth bands (one of which included Alex) played for more than 400 music fans at Teagan’s first “Shredfest.” “It was an amazing day,” he said. “It felt like I did a huge favor for the world.” Thankfully, Alex got better, and so the next year Teagan hosted a second concert at the House of Blues and dedicated it to another local boy with cancer. Since then, Teagan has set up a nonprofit charity called “Shred Kids’ Cancer,” recruited numerous other young volunteers to help, signed up corporate sponsors, and organized other events such as a 5k run and bone marrow drives. He has also spoken at numerous schools, radio stations and other nonprofits to raise awareness about pediatric cancer.
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 Allyson and Teagan, the other 2013 National Honorees are:
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.
Virginia Newsome, 17, of Lexington, Ky., 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.
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.
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[Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW]