Iowa's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected In 20th Annual National Awards Program

Fontanelle and Fort Dodge students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Eldridge, Clive and Cedar Rapids

DES MOINES, Iowa--()--Mark Baudler, 17, of Fontanelle and Morgan Border, 13, of Fort Dodge today were named Iowa'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. Mark was nominated by Nodaway Valley High School in Greenfield, and Morgan was nominated by Webster County 4-H in Fort Dodge. 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).

Mark, a senior at Nodaway Valley High School, planned, organized, funded and supervised the construction of a greenhouse for his high school to expand students’ hands-on learning experiences in agriculture and science. When Mark heard his agriculture teacher comment one day that it would be nice if their school had a greenhouse, “I realized that I could make this happen,” he said. With encouragement from the teacher, his school superintendent, a local seed dealer and his parents, Mark began researching different types of greenhouses and picked a design that he felt would work best.

He then had to figure out how to build the structure and calculate the supplies, utilities and labor that would be required. He presented his plan to his school board, which approved the project after Mark pledged to raise at least half the estimated $60,000 cost. After securing a sizable grant from a national seed company, Mark began ordering building materials and lining up construction, electrical and plumbing contractors. Having raised a total of nearly $35,000, Mark worked over the summer overseeing and helping with all aspects of the construction. “It was a lot of work. There were so many components and so much money to be raised that I felt like I just wanted to quit and find a new project,” said Mark. But he persevered, and now his school has a valuable new resource for its students. “I learned to never quit, even when it seems impossible to keep going,” Mark said.

Morgan, a seventh-grader at Saint Edmond Catholic School, organized a fundraiser in which 60 people swam more than 2,000 laps doing the breast stroke to generate over $8,000 to fight breast cancer. Morgan had been volunteering with her family at a men’s shelter every month, but felt uncomfortable there. She told her parents that instead she wanted to do something as a volunteer that she really enjoyed. Since Morgan is a competitive swimmer who loves the breaststroke, she decided on a breast stroke fundraiser to treat breast cancer patients and support research.

Morgan solicited advice and promotional assistance from local cancer fundraising groups, asked her swim coach for permission to use a school pool, and contacted her county 4-H coordinator to help publicize the need for donors and swimmers. Then she printed event flyers and T-shirts; canvassed local businesses for donations; gave talks to school classes; and used a radio station, a local newspaper and a YouTube video to promote her “Stay A-Breast” fundraiser. She also recruited breast cancer survivors to share their stories and be lap counters at the event. When it was over, Morgan was able to present checks of more than $4,000 each to the Trinity Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society.

As State Honorees, Mark and Morgan 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.

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized four other Iowa students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Iowa's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:

Jennifer Baldwin, 17, of Eldridge, Iowa, a senior at North Scott Senior High School, has spent the past four years as an active leader for her school’s Student Hunger Drive, and has helped to collect 60,000 pounds of food and approximately $10,000 in the past two years alone. Jennifer helps to organize and coordinate a number of events, including a Trick or Treat for canned food drive, a Powder Puff football game, a Minute to Win It game and a Halloween costume contest, among others.

Alex Freeman, 18, of Eldridge, Iowa, a senior at North Scott Senior High School, created the “Harvest Hustle,” a 5K run/walk that raised $3,000 to support King’s Harvest, a nonprofit ministry that helps to feed the hungry and homeless where he had been volunteering. As the event organizer, Alex was responsible for designing the route, securing sponsors, creating the website and promotional materials, and recruiting volunteers to assist with the walk, which drew 150 participants.

Jenna Harris, 11, of Clive, Iowa, a sixth-grader at Waukee Middle School, has raised $250 to support the Iowa Animal Rescue League by collecting recyclable cans and bottles for her project, “Cans for Compassion.” Jenna, who also knitted 24 hats for newborns at Blank Children’s Hospital and has adopted a family during the holiday season, hopes to expand her can recycling program to her school, where she’ll use the funds to provide financial support for school families in need.

Emily Montelius, 16, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a junior at Jefferson High School, founded and is the student director of “J’s Closet,” a donation program at her school with an inventory of more than 1,500 gently-used clothing items and 1,300 hygiene products for students in need. Emily, who founded J’s Closet after hearing that many teachers at the school would spend their own money to buy clothes for children in need, has solicited donations through a social media and letter-writing campaign, and is mentoring younger students to take over when she graduates.

“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.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or


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

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

Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833