WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dionne Wright, 17 and Hewan Abera, 14, today were named the District of Columbia'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. Dionne was nominated by Columbia Heights Education Campus, and Hewan was nominated by Saint Augustine Catholic School. 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).
Dionne, a senior at Bell Multicultural High School, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of a nonprofit organization, “Multitasking Hearts Corporation,” that assists and supports children being raised by single parents. Dionne and her mother were both raised in single-family households and know what a struggle it is to get by on one income. “With all of the hurdles in life, the challenge of being a single parent is never easy,” said Dionne. “We would like to relieve some of the pressures that children are forced to deal with on a daily basis.”
Dionne has participated in numerous volunteer activities over the years, including many that served homeless and sick people. She launched Multitasking Hearts with her mother in 2013 to help kids “achieve good grades, receive proper health care screening, participate in extracurricular activities, and receive housing and the basic necessities to live the best life possible,” said Dionne. The organization hosts a website to solicit donations and recruits high school students to assist with activities such as teen mentoring sessions, fundraising events and holiday celebrations. It also has started a scholarship fund for high school seniors needing help to go to college.
Hewan, an eighth-grader at Saint Augustine Catholic School, enjoys volunteering at her school, her church and in the community to help those who are less fortunate than her. Hewan learned about community service from her parents at a very young age. Her mother and father told her, she said, that “volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” She also volunteers to show her gratitude for the assistance she and her parents received after arriving in the United States from Ethiopia. “There were a lot of people who stepped in to help my family adjust,” she said. “When I do volunteer work, it’s my way of showing how appreciative I am for all the people who gave back to my family.”
Hewan volunteers at her school to help her teacher grade papers and to assist in the office. At church, she serves as a reader, a choir member and a guide. She also visits homeless shelters, and is a member of a committee that organizes a canned-food drive for the hungry. But her biggest commitment is to the kindergartners who are learning to love reading thanks to the books that Hewan reads to them and the fun activities she plans for them. Volunteering, said Hewan, “is the most fulfilling experience I have ever had, and I will continue to do it throughout my life.”
As State Honorees, Dionne and Hewan each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an invitation to join the top two honorees from every state in the U.S. for four days of national recognition events in Washington, D.C. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2015.
The program judges also recognized two other District of Columbia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are the District of Columbia's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Harriet Fink, 18, a senior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, founded “Vamos!,” a tutoring program at a local parish where many children come from Spanish-speaking families where the parents cannot help with homework. Harriet, who worked closely with the pastor at the church and recruited student volunteers to help develop lesson plans and tutor, conducts the program every Saturday morning for three hours and has so far helped 10 students with writing, reading and math skills.
Jordan Giles, 17, a member of the Girl Scouts Nation's Capital in Washington, D.C., and a senior at Maret School, planned and implemented an energy fair at her school that featured environmental leaders from throughout the district talking about energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable living. Jordan recruited volunteers, secured exhibitors, produced flyers and posters, and coordinated games, activities and prizes for the event.
“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