CHEYENNE, Wyo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Julia Harris, 18, of Green River and Caleb Sabatka, 12, of Dubois today were named Wyoming's top two youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Julia was nominated by Green River High School in Green River, and Caleb was nominated by Dubois Elementary/Middle School in Dubois. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 19th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Julia, a senior at Green River High School, has co-founded several initiatives and volunteered hundreds of hours to help people in need in her community and overseas. Julia said she feels compelled to take action whenever she sees a need, and has volunteered in countless ways since she was in elementary school. She has recruited students, their parents and other people in her community to lend a hand as well. “I feel that service is vital to humanity,” she said. “I cannot see a need without attempting to alleviate it.”
Many of Julia’s projects involve visiting and reading to people who are sick or elderly, and helping them with chores such as transportation, pet care and yard maintenance. For one person with lymphoma, she recruited others to clean his house and spruce up his yard. For an elderly woman, Julia assembled a team to paint a fence. She also has provided books to children in need through a project she co-founded, called “Books for Babies;” sewed nearly 500 blankets for people living in poverty in Argentina and Guatemala; sold lemonade to buy 175 mosquito nets for African children; and repainted a dilapidated playground map in honor of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “When we give or serve or volunteer, we find the potential we have, and it is a joyous discovery,” said Julia.
Caleb, a seventh-grader at Dubois Elementary/Middle School, proposed and helped organize a town-wide church picnic that brought together people from several different congregations in his community and raised more than $3,000 for an organization serving local residents in need. Caleb knew that one person could make a big difference in the world because he already had. When he was in fifth grade, he organized a shoe drive that sent 136 pairs of shoes to children in Ecuador and Haiti. So when his church’s youth group was discussing healing, Caleb suggested bringing people from all local churches together for one night, “to show people that we are not so different after all,” he said.
Caleb and other church members presented the idea to other churches, and began making plans. On the day of the community church picnic, all of the participating churches held open houses “so people could see the inside of other people’s churches and learn the history behind them,” said Caleb. Then, they all convened in a rented building for dinner, a bake sale and a silent auction. The event “helped bring our small town one step closer to a beautiful harmony of people who can set aside their differences to reach a common goal,” according to Caleb. Plus, it raised $3,378 for Needs of Dubois, which aids local individuals and families in need.
As State Honorees, Julia and Caleb 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 four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014.
The program judges also recognized two other Wyoming students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wyoming's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Wyatt Hank Rauterkus, 16, of Freedom, Wyo., a member of the Lincoln County 4-H and a junior at Star Valley High School, has raised three hogs and donated them to various organizations that raffled them off, raising more than $6,000 for charity. Wyatt, whose brother and sister have both done the same in the past, donated his pigs to the Lincoln County 4-H, the Holy Family Catholic Church and the Alpine American Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary.
Jessica Woodford, 17, of Afton, Wyo., a senior at Star Valley High School, started “Kids For Wish Kids,” a fundraising project at her school that has raised more than $4,000 to support a child’s wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jessica, who started the program after a long recovery from a knee injury, worked with her committee of volunteers to put on a week-long campaign at her school that featured fun activities, bake sales, karaoke and a dance.
“We applaud each of these young people for their exemplary volunteer service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “They use their time and talents to make a meaningful difference in their communities, and we hope their example inspires others to do the same.”
“By going above and beyond in their volunteer service, these students have brought positive change to communities across the country,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. 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 HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 5, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014. These National 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.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India and China. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees on behalf of President Barack Obama.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) 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 36 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, 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.
About Prudential Financial
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 www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW