WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Massachusetts' top two youth volunteers of 2014, Ellie Burger, 16, of Dover and Lindsey Arruda, 12, of Somerset, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 19th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Ellie and Lindsey – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Ellie and Lindsey Massachusetts' top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Ellie, a sophomore at Dover-Sherborn High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has collected tens of thousands of golf clubs and balls, and hundreds of golf shoes and bags, for youth in Boston’s inner city over the past five years. Ellie was inspired to start “Golf Clubs for Kids” after her father asked her and her sister to clean out their garage. “We had so many golf clubs we weren’t using that were in near-perfect condition,” said Ellie. She had read about a national organization that promotes life and leadership skills among young people through golf, and decided that she, too, could make an impact on kids through golf. Enabling them to learn the game would help them “develop life-enhancing values such as confidence, dedication and judgment,” she said.
To begin, Ellie reached out to local golf courses to see if she could hold club drives there. Then, she would spend the day outside, sign in hand, promoting her mission and collecting unwanted equipment from course members. She also made presentations at business meetings, sent out emails soliciting donations, set up a website and traveled across New England to pick up donated clubs. The equipment she collected was delivered to a central city golf course for use by inner-city kids. “I feel amazing when I see how just donating simple golf clubs really changes a child’s life,” said Ellie. Her organization also has donated golf equipment to U.S. troops overseas who have access to golfing facilities.
Lindsey, a sixth-grader at Somerset Middle School, has raised over $10,000 to benefit victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing through the sale of wristbands that she makes. Like the rest of the country, her family was horrified to see this usually jubilant event in their state turn into a tragedy as two bombs exploded near the finish line. “The Boston Marathon bombings will be forever etched in people’s minds, but for me, what happened after this event was truly inspirational,” said Lindsey. “Instead of running away from danger, many spectators, volunteers and first responders headed towards it.” At that moment, Lindsey knew she wanted to do something to help the victims. She decided she would create silicone wristbands to sell, then donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the One Fund, a charity created by Boston’s mayor and the governor of Massachusetts.
She designed a silicone wristband in the official colors of the marathon, with the words “BOSTON STRONG” written in gold on a blue band. Her mother’s office agreed to donate the money for her to get started. She created a Facebook page so people could track her progress, and began selling the bands on eBay for $5 apiece. Within minutes, the orders started coming in from all over the country so fast that Lindsey had to enlist the help of her family to help with the bands. To increase sales, Lindsey made flyers and set up a table at a local supermarket. It wasn’t long before a local newspaper picked up the story and more orders poured in. Some businesses purchased hundreds of wristbands for their employees. Lindsey said it was heartwarming to see sports figures, musicians and public officials wearing her wristband. But it was the support of ordinary people that touched Lindsey the most, like the man who drove his motorized wheelchair for miles so he could buy a bracelet, she said.
“These honorees are shining examples of what is possible when young people use their energy and initiative to help their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to recognize their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future.”
“Through their service, these students have not only made a difference in the lives of others – they’ve provided their peers with a powerful example of what it looks like to be an outstanding youth volunteer,” said Barbara-Jane (BJ) Paris, president of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2014 honorees for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2014 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 30,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
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, too. In the past 19 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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.