DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sydney Burckhardt, 17, of Denver and Madison Tatinski, 10, of Pueblo West today were named Colorado'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. Sydney was nominated by Hamilton Middle School in Denver, and Madison was nominated by Corwin International Magnet School in Pueblo. 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).
Sydney, a senior at George Washington High School, founded a tutoring program that has grown from a two-week math “boot camp” at her former middle school to a permanent bi-weekly after-school program covering all subjects at three schools. It all started when Sydney heard that students at her former middle school were performing unsatisfactorily in math. She decided to conduct a two-week boot camp at the school to help, and when she achieved a breakthrough with her very first pupil, she realized “the impact I could have on the education of inner-city students,” she said.
Sydney worked with the school to implement a similar program for the summer, and then recruited a couple of fellow high school students to help her conduct ongoing after-school tutoring sessions. With close to 100 students receiving assistance from Sydney’s program during the first year, the school registered an impressive increase in assessment test scores. The program has now expanded to another middle school and to Sydney’s high school, and she now has 12 “tutor leaders” to help lead and coordinate tutoring sessions. “I believe that in the face of profound income inequality, an effective education system can equalize the playing field for all students regardless of their economic background,” said Sydney.
Madison, a fifth-grader at Corwin International Magnet School, has collected more than 350 pairs of shoes for children in need in Colorado’s Pueblo County, Montana, Mexico and Guatemala. After attending a church meeting that featured a discussion of children living in impoverished circumstances around the world, “I decided I wanted to make a difference for children,” said Madison. So when her family asked Madison what she wanted for Christmas, she asked for shoes she could donate to other children. “I am so blessed, and there are so many children that do not own a pair of shoes,” she said.
The following April, she set out to collect 100 pairs of shoes for her birthday. She asked area businesses to help, distributed posters and collection boxes at local establishments, set up a Facebook page to promote her mission, and benefited from an article in a local newspaper. Hundreds of pairs of shoes flowed in. Madison shipped many of them to an orphanage in Mexico, an Indian reservation in Montana, and to children in Guatemala. The majority went to the Pueblo Cooperative Care Center, which provides food, clothing and other assistance to local families in need. Madison also has secured a $1,500 grant to buy more shoes. In addition, she volunteers regularly in the clothing section of the Pueblo care center.
As State Honorees, Sydney and Madison 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 four other Colorado students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Colorado's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Addison Kleinhans, 10, of Broomfield, Colo., a fifth-grader at Colorado Digital Academy, has raised $38,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation since 2011 by collecting 13,500 letters to Santa from 22 countries and delivering the letters to Macy’s, which donates $2 per letter in Addison’s name. Addison, who was 5 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, has also been recognized by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for his fundraising efforts.
Garrett Ann Nevins, 17, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., a senior at Mountain Vista High School, worked with students with special needs at her school to make tied fleece pillows, which they then donated to the Ronald McDonald House. Garrett Ann sold rally towels at the Unified basketball games to raise the $250 needed to purchase the supplies, created step-by-step instructions, and worked with the students as they assembled the pillows.
Nicole Steiner, 16, of Parker, Colo., a junior at Legend High School, founded “A Game for You,” a service project for which she organizes drives to collect new or gently-used games and puzzles and has donated 2,300 items to young hospital patients, families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, veterans, the homeless and senior citizens in assisted living facilities. Nicole, motivated to serve her community after others helped her family through a difficult time, also makes anonymous donations to people who have come upon hard times.
Breanna Wheeler, 18, of Aurora, Colo., a senior at Cherokee Trail High School, designed a website for the FISH Food Pantry of Commerce City to spread the word about the food pantry and its needs. Breanna, who has been volunteering for the food pantry since she was in elementary school, has also hosted five food drives at the local grocery store that have each collected enough food to help feed an estimated 30 families.
“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