AUGUSTA, Maine--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Meghan Charest, 16, of Falmouth and Kevin Ayotte, 14, of Madawaska today were named Maine'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. Meghan was nominated by Falmouth High School in Falmouth, and Kevin was nominated by Madawaska Middle/High School in Madawaska. 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).
Meghan, a junior at Falmouth High School, provides people in need in her community with fresh, organic produce through her community garden, which yields about 500 pounds of food per year for the Falmouth Food Pantry. Meghan was inspired to start her garden after volunteering at the food pantry and seeing how little fresh produce was available. “I wanted to find a sustainable, effective way to provide healthier foods for the people using the food pantry,” she said.
After gaining the approval of food pantry coordinators, Meghan researched which crops have high yields. She then found several people willing to donate space for a garden; secured a grant to buy gardening equipment; and spoke at schools, Girl Scout meetings and clubs to recruit volunteers. She and her team went to work planting, watering, weeding, harvesting produce and making weekly deliveries to the food pantry. After awhile, Meghan enlisted the help of a master gardener who taught her more about growing healthy food. She moved her operation to a larger garden, and began using social media to recruit more volunteers. She also began raising money to maintain the garden by setting up fundraising tables at garden centers. Today, Meghan’s garden is the primary source of fresh produce for the food pantry, which serves about 900 people in her community. “Through organizing, coordinating and working in the garden, I have been fortunate to realize the power, strength and grace that come with helping others,” said Meghan.
Kevin, an eighth-grader at Madawaska Middle/High School, volunteers to perform a wide variety of important jobs during both the winter and summer months for the Four Seasons Trail Association in Madawaska. A few years ago, Kevin saw an older man struggling to carry firewood up the stairs from the basement to the fireplace at the association’s lodge. “I feel it is important to help out other people when they need help with something,” he said. So Kevin began volunteering to stack and load firewood at the lodge in the winter, keep the pellet stove’s hopper full, shovel the porch and deck, clean and organize the ski closet, and wax skis for the association’s youth ski program.
Kevin found he enjoyed his volunteer tasks so much that he wanted to continue over the summer. He now mows the lawn in the front and back of the lodge every two weeks, and helps to maintain ski trails by mowing them and cutting back brush. He also has helped build new trails and a garage for the association. “The work I do makes it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors and do things they like to do,” said Kevin. “I often tell other young people like me that volunteering can make a big difference to the community.”
As State Honorees, Meghan and Kevin 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 Maine students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Maine's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Emma Cloyd, 18, of Camden, Maine, a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School, co-founded her school’s chapter of the “Liberian Education Fund” and, as president, supervises a group of 40 student volunteers who have raised $6,000 to provide an education for 11 girls in Liberia. Emma runs all the group’s meetings, is responsible for growing and maintaining the membership, and oversees the fundraising and awareness events.
Parker Montano, 17, of Portland, Maine, a senior at Cheverus High School, created a website called “LandedME.blogspot.com” as a guide for pilots flying into any of the 50 public airstrips throughout the state of Maine, providing information about each airport and local services such as food, lodging and car rental at each location. Parker recruited and managed a group of 35 volunteers who either called or visited each airstrip to gather the data, while he worked with the Maine Department of Transportation to host the site and print hard copies of the guide for pilots without computers.
“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