JUNEAU, Alaska--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cassandra Adams, 17, of Ketchikan and Amara Sanguni, 12, of Juneau today were named Alaska's top two youth volunteers of 2015 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Cassandra was nominated by Ketchikan High School in Ketchikan, and Amara was nominated by Girl Scouts of Alaska in Anchorage. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 20th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Cassandra, a senior at Ketchikan High School, began volunteering with her local fire department five years ago, and has since helped care for numerous victims of fires, accidents and other life-threatening crises as an emergency trauma technician. When her father joined the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department in 2010, Cassandra learned that the organization did not have enough members to meet all the needs in its 24-mile service area, so she began volunteering there, too.
At first, she helped vacuum, sweep and scrub the firehouse once a month. After she turned 14, Cassandra signed up for a 40-hour course leading to certification as an emergency trauma technician, and became a fire department cadet. She now responds to medical emergencies as part of an ambulance crew, monitoring the condition of patients while they are being transported to the hospital. She also provides medical support to her department’s firefighters during fires, and has used her training to teach others. “I always want to help patients in every way I can, so it’s difficult to accept that I can’t fix everything,” she said. On the other hand, there are few things more rewarding than helping to save someone’s life, she indicated. “That has made all the difference with me.”
Amara, a seventh-grader at Floyd Dryden Middle School, works on a variety of events each year to raise money so that families in need, people with disabilities, veterans and senior citizens can get free food through a food pantry in Juneau. Amara became aware of the pantry, Helping Hands, when her family benefited from its services after moving to Juneau 10 years ago. “I thought volunteering would be a little way to thank Helping Hands for helping my family and a way to help other people in need,” she said.
Her first volunteer activity was working at a Halloween carnival. “It was really fun,” she said, “and I got really hooked.” Since then, Amara has helped raise funds each year not only at the Halloween event, but by assisting with food sales at Juneau’s Gold Rush Days and Fourth of July celebration, by wrapping Christmas gifts, and by selling tickets for an annual dinner and auction. These activities take up a lot of her spare time, she said, and require flexibility, effective people skills, and the willingness to do whatever’s asked of her. Over the past year alone, Amara has helped generate nearly $24,000, which has enabled Helping Hands to distribute almost 100,000 pounds of food to people in need. “I absolutely love the fact that families and others in need are getting help because of my volunteering,” she said.
As State Honorees, Cassandra and Amara 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 2015.
The program judges also recognized two other Alaska students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Alaska's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Jayton Rizzo, 18, of Kenai, Alaska, a member of the American Red Cross of Alaska in Anchorage and a senior at Nikiski Middle/Senior High School, coordinated the production of “Fish On,” a series of performances that taught 400 elementary school children safe fishing methods and conservation tips to preserve the beauty of the Kenai River. Jayton teamed up with a local theater and worked closely with the elementary school to create a performance the children would find engaging and useful.
Jenevia Wika, 15, of Anchorage, Alaska, a sophomore at South Anchorage High School, is a team captain at Special Olympics Alaska and a leader at its summer camp, “Camp Shriver,” where she has spent the past five summers mentoring young children with special needs. Jenevia, a dedicated Girl Scout and loyal volunteer for many community programs, is also active in her school’s Partner Club, which matches volunteers with kids with special needs for activities like kickball, bowling and skiing.
“Prudential is honored to celebrate the contributions of these remarkable young volunteers,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “By shining a spotlight on the difference they’ve made in their communities, we hope others are inspired to volunteer, too.”
“These students have not only improved their communities through their exemplary volunteer service, but also set a fine example for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Each of their stories is proof of the impact one young person can have when they decide to make a difference.”
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 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2015. 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 voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 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