RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Emma Buchanan, 18, of Glade Spring and Thomas "Tucker" Durham, 13, of Glen Allen today were named Virginia'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. Emma was nominated by Patrick Henry High School in Glade Spring, and Thomas was nominated by Holman Middle School in Glen Allen. 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).
Emma, a senior at Patrick Henry High School, has been a student ambassador for a national in-school nutrition and physical activity program since 2009, and in conjunction with that role, won a $4,000 grant to implement a health and wellness class for her community. Starting in seventh grade, Emma began working with the National Dairy Association and National Football League’s “Fuel Up to Play 60” program, encouraging student involvement in her school and speaking at more than 30 national events.
A few years later, the program’s sponsors invited student leaders to propose ideas for new health initiatives in their communities. Emma immediately started thinking about the needs in her area. “The people of southwest Virginia have been taught since birth that food must be deep-fried and plates must be cleaned,” said Emma. “I decided the best way to shape my program was in the form of a health and wellness community-wide class.” Her proposal won a $4,000 grant and a chance to get face-to-face advice from Warren Buffett. She used the money to host free monthly “family health nights” featuring lessons on healthy living, guest speakers, meals prepared by a local chef, and health-related prizes. “I was able to teach over 100 community members how a healthy life can be accomplished at a small price,” said Emma.
Thomas, an eighth-grader at Holman Middle School, helped his family raise almost $14,000 last year for a local cancer center by participating in a 10K race and by assisting with a yard sale, a donut breakfast and a pizza lunch. Thomas and his family began fund-raising to combat cancer after the death of his grandfather from melanoma in 2010. “Losing him was hard for me and helping the fight against cancer has become an important cause for my family,” he said. His family raised $6,000 in 2013, but last year wanted to double the amount. “We knew it would be hard work, and my mom needed extra help to make it happen,” said Thomas. So he decided to take a greater role in his family’s fundraising efforts for Massey Cancer Center.
To attract donations, Thomas posted messages on the family’s website and on his Facebook page, helped write letters and emails to potential donors, and sought interviews with local radio, television and newspaper reporters. Thomas and his mother also coordinated a yard sale, donut breakfast and pizza lunch. More than 100 individuals supported his family’s efforts last year, Thomas said. “One hundred percent of the funds we raised will go towards cancer research, treatment and support at Massey Cancer Center,” he said. “When people hear about fighting cancer, most people are willing to give a donation and even if it’s only five or ten dollars, it all adds up.”
As State Honorees, Emma and Thomas 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 six other Virginia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Virginia's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Bryce Badura, 17, of Midlothian, Va., a senior at Clover Hill High School, founded the “Dunkin Donuts Munchkins Run,” a charity 5K race, and since the first race in 2010 has raised $100,000 to support the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, an organization that provided tremendous support to Bryce’s friend when he was diagnosed with cancer. Bryce, who secured permits, sponsorships and a crew of hundreds of volunteers, also designed a logo and an event and registration website, and handled all promotion and advertising.
Unity Bowling, 15, of Richmond, Va., a member of the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Richmond and a sophomore at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, has collected and donated more than 11,500 books and $7,000 in monetary donations to support literacy efforts as a volunteer youth representative for the organization “Read to Them.” Unity not only reads to children, but also helps to plan activities and fundraising events, including an event featuring the book “The Mouse and Motorcycle,” where she arranged for a motorcycle group to visit the kids and teach them about motorcycles and encourage them to read.
Hannah Hardison, 17, of Winchester, Va., a senior at Millbrook High School, raised $2,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by hosting an 8K race in her community, for which she recruited a team of volunteers, created a website and Facebook page, secured sponsorships and donations, arranged promotional materials, and coordinated all logistical issues. Hannah wanted to raise funds to support research for a cure because her father was diagnosed with M.S. when she was an infant.
Lauren Henk, 18, of Smithfield, Va., a senior at Smithfield High School, created an elementary education program to teach children about the challenges a child with disabilities faces, in an attempt to prevent bullying. Lauren, who has experienced bullying due to autism, researched and developed comprehensive lesson plans and a curriculum kit for teachers to use when teaching children about the six most common disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, deafness, blindness, dyslexia and cerebral palsy.
Madeline Rosso, 17, of Winchester, Va., a senior at James Wood High School, is an active member of WorkCamp, a weeklong summer program sponsored by her church where teenagers gather to conduct a variety of home repair projects for people who are unable to do it themselves. In addition to WorkCamp, which she joined in 2012, Madeline has volunteered at soup kitchens, read and sang at nursing homes and assisted with her Parish Fair.
Maeve Winter, 16, of Charlottesville, Va., a junior at Western Albemarle High School, founded “Made by Maeve,” a greeting card company featuring her custom artwork, and has raised nearly $7,000 since her project began to benefit children’s charities including Child Fund International, Heifer International and Camp Holiday Trails. Maeve’s work with Camp Holiday Trails, a summer camp for children with special medical needs, is dearest to her heart since she has volunteered at this camp for many years.
“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