HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alexandra Skrocki, 17, of Honolulu and Kaytlen Akau, 13, of Lihue today were named Hawaii'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. Alexandra was nominated by Radford High School in Honolulu, and Kaytlen was nominated by Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Lihue. 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).
Alexandra, a senior at Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School, has hosted an annual “Back to School Teen Party” in her backyard for the past four years to welcome new students from military families to her community and ease their anxiety about starting at a new school. Alexandra has always tried to make things easier for military families like hers, with activities such as preparing home-cooked meals for single airmen, mentoring children of deployed parents, and baking holiday cookies for active duty men and women. At her high school, 60 percent of the students are military dependents, which means there are always kids coming and going, Alexandra said. She certainly knows what it’s like to be the “new kid,” having attended eight different schools over the course of 13 years. As a result, Alexandra decided to start her own service project “to make sure military teens attending a new high school felt included in their new social circle.”
Alexandra invites new and current students and their parents to her party by distributing flyers throughout the neighborhood. Then, on the afternoon before the first day of school, she and her family welcome attendees to their backyard and serve pizza and beverages. Alexandra organizes ice-breaker games to encourage students to talk to one another, asks teens to write down their names and phone numbers on a poster as a way of exchanging information among their new acquaintances, and provides a question and answer session. Parents are invited for the last hour of the three-hour event to meet each other and find out more about the high school. Alexandra estimates that about 70 military teens and their parents have attended her parties. “The most memorable part is seeing the teens arrive quiet and unsure of what is yet to come, then seeing them leave energized and excited about their first day at a new high school,” said Alexandra.
Kaytlen, an eighth-grader at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, is an avid volunteer in her community who logged more than 300 hours last year working with children as a dance studio assistant and a leader at a county enrichment program, and participating in events to combat diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Kaytlen said she was inspired to volunteer by her oldest sister, who has always made helping others a part of her life. “I want to be like her,” said Kaytlen.
A natural dancer, Kaytlen was asked by her instructor to help out at weekend dance classes for 3- to 10-year-olds. She spends more than three hours each Saturday helping kids in three classes who are having difficulty with steps and need extra help. Last summer, Kaytlen served as a junior leader supervising children in a county parks and recreation enrichment program. For the past several years, Kaytlen has participated with her family in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and as a new Girl Scout, she assisted with a walk to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, and with a county aid station at the Kauai Marathon.
As State Honorees, Alexandra and Kaytlen 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 Hawaii students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Hawaii's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Jasmine Doan, 18, of Kahului, Hawaii, a senior at Seabury Hall School, founded “Maui Math Circle,” a free, student-run enrichment program that provides critical thinking and problem-solving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons to 200 elementary school children through its 30 trained teen volunteers. Jasmine, who created the program to share her passion for math and to increase opportunities to be exposed to a strong STEM education, developed the curriculum, wrote and received $2,500 in grant money, trained the volunteers, manages the promotion of the program, and organizes the monthly sessions.
Jillian Madanay, 17, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a junior at Lutheran High School of Hawaii, volunteers weekly at the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu, where she helps to organize, pack and stock clothing, stuffed animals, books and toiletries for children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse. Jillian, who lives with cerebral palsy and certain physical disabilities, also helps with the annual fundraiser for “HUGS – Help, Understanding and Group Support,” an organization that provides help for the families of medically fragile children, and one that provided help to Jillian and her family when she was a baby.
“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.