DOVER, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Elizabeth Quesenberry, 17, of Wilmington and Piper Biggs, 11, of Dover today were named Delaware'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. Elizabeth was nominated by Padua Academy High School in Wilmington, and Piper was nominated by Kent County 4-H in Dover. 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).
Elizabeth, a senior at Padua Academy High School, overcame a diagnosis of brain cancer to start a nonprofit organization that has raised $100,000 over the past six years to increase awareness of childhood cancer, help fund the search for a cure, and ease the financial pressure on families of young cancer patients. Elizabeth was cancer-free after a year-long battle with brain cancer, but the experience forever changed her life. “During my battle I met other kids suffering worse than me and I watched my friends pass away from cancer,” Elizabeth said. “I felt I had to do something about this epidemic.”
Her organization, the Pearce Q. Foundation, conducts several fundraisers throughout the year. To prepare for the largest, the “4 Miles of Hope Walk/Run,” Elizabeth shares her story with companies to gain corporate sponsors; advertises through flyers, social media, radio and newspapers; and recruits volunteers to staff the event. At Christmas, her group “adopts” several local families with sick children and provides them with gifts and assistance with groceries and gas. Elizabeth’s foundation also stages a comedy show, sells gold ribbon socks, and organizes “hats on for cancer days” at schools, where students pay for the privilege of donning hats during the school day. She estimates that her organization has benefited more than 1,000 families so far. “I want to do whatever I can to help people who are in the same place that I was,” said Elizabeth.
Piper, a sixth-grader at Campus Community School, conducted a food drive last summer that provided 678 pounds of food for a men’s shelter and an orphanage in her city. The idea came to her one day while she was relaxing at home: “I should do I food drive! While food drives during traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are important, people are going hungry throughout the year,” she said. “I wanted to show people that giving should happen all the time.”
Piper appealed for donations with a flyer and through social media. She put a large donation box outside her house and asked local businesses to host donation boxes, as well. It wasn’t long before people in her community were dropping off cans and boxes of food, and friends and family outside the area were sending checks in support of her project. Piper and her mother collected all the food from the donation boxes and used the cash donations to purchase additional products in bulk at a warehouse store. Piper helped stock the shelter’s pantry with her supplies, and then had the opportunity to serve dinner to the residents. “It was awesome to see their faces,” she said. Surplus food items were taken to an orphanage in Dover. “It was so great and heartwarming to see the reaction of those who donated and the impact of giving outside of holiday time,” said Piper.
As State Honorees, Elizabeth and Piper 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 Delaware students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Delaware's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Hyung Jun Hahn, 18, of Hockessin, Del., a senior at Alexis I. du Pont High School, began teaching senior citizens computer skills in 2013 when he partnered with Jewish Family Services to provide classes on using email and operating laptops and notepad devices. Hyung decided to help seniors with their technical skills because he is able to connect with his grandparents in Korea using today’s technology, and wanted to help other grandparents do the same.
Will Kenney, 12, of Delmar, Del., a seventh-grader at Millsboro Middle School, spent the summer of 2014 planning and implementing “Will’s Carnival for a Cause,” a family-style carnival with games, rides, food, music and more, that raised $5,800 to help fund research for a cure for Sturge-Weber syndrome. Will, inspired by a two-year-old friend who has the illness, has also become an advocate for the Sturge-Weber Foundation and is already planning the second annual carnival for the summer of 2015.
“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