WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vermont's top two youth volunteers of 2014, Michelle Dreimann, 16, of Stratton Mountain and Richard Diemer, 13, of Burlington, 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. Michelle and Richard – 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 Michelle and Richard Vermont's 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.
Michelle, a junior at Stratton Mountain School, has helped raise more than $150,000 over the past seven years for a foundation that provides scholarships and medical care to families of employees of the Hualalai Resort in Hawaii. Michelle also promoted recycling at the resort and brought curbside recycling service to residents. For many years, Michelle and her family have spent vacations at Hualalai, where they own a home. “Seeing the same employees every year, they became part of my family, or ‘Ohana’ as they say in Hawaiian,” said Michelle. “At the age of 10, I realized that it was time to start giving back to the employees by making a donation to the Ohana Foundation.”
Since she didn’t have much money to donate, Michelle began conducting annual golf cart washes to raise money, with help from her sister and friends. Then she sold reusable grocery bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, stickers and T-shirts – all sporting a recycling logo she’d designed – and donated the profits to the Ohana Foundation. She also negotiated a low rate with a recycling company to provide curbside service at the resort, and arranged for the five-cent redeemable deposit on beverage containers to be donated to the foundation. Michelle co-founded and is now co-president of the “Junior Board.” The Junior Board host an annual dance event for resort homeowners and employees as an additional way to support the foundation.“The Hualalai community has become my second family and I am grateful for the chance to give back,” said Michelle.
Richard, a seventh-grader at Mater Christi School, developed a plan to facilitate the use of reusable water bottles at his school and install a sorting station for recyclables in his cafeteria. Richard’s school prohibits the use of disposable water bottles, yet filling reusuable water bottles from the school cafeteria’s existing water fountains is difficult, said Richard. And, though the school does its best with its existing budget, the only recycling resource it's been able to provide in the school cafeteria is a “landfill bin,” he said. So Richard, with support from his mother, decided to “take the bull by the horns” and come up with a plan to address the water bottle problem and encourage more thorough recycling in the cafeteria.
Richard researched possible solutions and applied for a community waste reduction grant from the county’s solid waste district. He then met with an official from the district, who assessed the school’s recycling needs. Richard plans to use the grant money to purchase two water bottle refilling stations, a drinking station and a waste sorting station for the cafeteria that allows students to separate recyclables, compostables, liquids and landfill items. He’s also working on signs that will make it clear where to place various waste items after lunch. “Thousands of milk cartons and other recyclables and compost will be saved from over-filled landfills” as a result of his project, said Richard.
“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