FRANKFORT, Ky.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Madeline Stephenson, 17, of Burkesville and Amelia Lowe, 11, of Louisville today were named Kentucky'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. Madeline was nominated by Cumberland County High School in Burkesville, and Amelia was nominated by Greathouse/Shryock Traditional Elementary School in Louisville. 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).
Madeline, a junior at Cumberland County High School, brightens the lives of hospitalized children twice a week when she wheels her toy cart through the halls of a local hospital and allows each child to select a toy to keep. Madeline decided to launch her service project after visiting the sister of a friend who was hospitalized with Type 1 diabetes. “Just walking into her hospital room I could feel her pain,” Madeline said. While she was visiting, the girl’s grandmother brought a smile to her face by giving her a Jell-O cup. Madeline thought, “What if she had received something that she could have kept and used? Would it have made her stay at the hospital more enjoyable and put her mind at ease after hearing her diagnosis?”
Madeline began brainstorming about ways she could cheer up sick children and came up with the idea of her toy cart, which she calls “Cause for a Smile.” She presented her idea to the CEO of Cumberland County Hospital, and then solicited help from the director of the hospital’s building and maintenance department in designing and building a cart that would hold toys and games. Madeline purchases toys, games, books, stuffed animals and other items that appeal to children up to age 12. Every Wednesday and Sunday, she loads her cart and rolls it into each pediatric patient’s room and lets him or her choose a gift. “Many children in my community live in poverty and don’t have the privilege of many toys,” she said. “They can bring this toy home with them and cherish it throughout childhood.”
Amelia, a fifth-grader at Greathouse/Shryock Traditional Elementary School, has helped her school raise more than $300,000 for Kosair Children’s Hospital by singing at fundraising events, knocking on doors to solicit donations, and promoting her school’s philanthropy through Facebook and YouTube. Singing is Amelia’s passion and she’s been doing it as long as she’s been able to talk. When she was in first grade, her teacher overheard her humming to herself and asked her to sing out loud. Upon hearing Amelia’s beautiful voice, the teacher immediately enlisted her help in the school’s first fundraising campaign for the Kosair hospital. “Preparing for the fundraiser kickoff was a new and exciting experience,” said Amelia. “That first year I sang ’Maybe‘ from Annie. The students were so encouraged and excited that I sang for the closing celebration and I’ve been singing every year since.”
That was more than four years ago, and since then Amelia has auditioned and been selected for several performances to raise awareness and money for her cause. She also has collected money door-to-door, written letters to friends and family to ask for donations, posted videos of her singing on Facebook and YouTube, and donated to Kosair any pay she has received from performing at events. Over the years, her school’s donations have funded a treatment room in the hospital’s emergency department and a room in a pediatric surgical wing of an affiliated facility, as well as benefitting programs for diabetes, congenital heart defects and neonatal intensive care. “I look forward to finding new ways to use my voice for good in school next year,” she said.
As State Honorees, Madeline and Amelia 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 Kentucky students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Kentucky's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Hadeel Abdallah, 17, of Lexington, Ky., a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, founded “Youth of Lex” at three local high schools and one middle school in an effort to bring teens of different backgrounds together for friendship and community service, and has since organized volunteer projects for the group with soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations. Hadeel, who started the program in 2012, has recruited an executive committee to help run the organization, hosts monthly meetings with guest speakers, organizes fundraising events, and coordinates promotional activities for the program.
Alexandra Griffiths, 18, of Greensburg, Ky., a senior at Green County High School, founded “Sole to Soul,” a program that has collected and donated more than 1,000 pairs of gently-used shoes with inspirational messages representing her Christian faith. Alexandra, who has been collecting shoes for eight years, is passing on the responsibilities of the organization to her younger sister when she graduates so her “shoe mission” can continue.
Hannah Irvine, 17, of Ashland, Ky., a senior at Boyd County High School, created a youth volunteer resources website that lists available volunteer opportunities at 31 local organizations so teens who wish to volunteer could easily do so. Hannah, who received a $1,000 grant to help fund the website, has partnered with the United Way to develop an additional site for adult volunteer opportunities.
Alexandria Myers, 18, of Shelbyville, Ky., a senior at Christian Academy of Louisville, founded “Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Orphans Prosper through Education),” in 2011, an exchange program for orphan girls from the Covenant Peace School in Kenya, for which she has raised $20,000 and provided opportunities for girls to travel to America to spread the message about the importance of education for African girls. Through her efforts, Alexandria’s school has been inspired to host school supply collections and fundraisers that have helped to build a dormitory at the school.
“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