CARSON CITY, Nev.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nasya Mancini, 17, of Sparks and Lexie Wilder, 11, of Las Vegas today were named Nevada'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. Nasya was nominated by Edward C. Reed High School in Sparks, and Lexie was nominated by Lummis Elementary School in Las Vegas. 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).
Nasya, a senior at Edward C. Reed High School, has taught a weekly acting class for children at a local homeless shelter for the past two years, and directed her students in a major theatrical production performed for the community each April. Several childhood experiences inspired Nasya to become an acting teacher: she began acting at age 5, started volunteering with her mother for nonprofit organizations at 6, and also was bullied at a young age. “I know from personal experience how acting provides self-confidence and encouragement,” she said. “I wanted to contribute my skills and passion to children living at the shelter, making them feel like they’re important and empowered to offer value.”
Nasya teaches basic acting skills to children at the Volunteers of America Family Homeless Shelter in Reno every Sunday evening. Then, for the two months leading up to their annual community performance, she meets with her students four times a week to rehearse. For the April shows, Nasya recruits 10 volunteers to help with costumes, makeup, sound and lighting, plus several local actors to collaborate with the shelter kids. More than 240 people, including the mayor, have attended the first two productions. “It’s a life-changing opportunity to see the kids on stage performing for their families and community,” said Nasya. “These children have a strength and courage that is beyond words. You just must believe in yourself and you can do anything!”
Lexie, a fifth-grader at Lummis Elementary School, has collected more than 1,000 used towels and bathmats from her community to make dogs, cats and other residents at a local animal shelter more comfortable. Lexie loves animals and asks her mother frequently to take her to The Animal Foundation’s shelter just to look at the animals there. One day, as she was walking through the kennels, she noticed that many of them looked scared and upset, and had nothing to lay on except a hard concrete floor. “It became clear to me that I needed to find a solution for the animals to be comfortable,” said Lexie.
She knew that her family had some extra towels and an old bathmat in her house, and began to wonder where she could get more. Las Vegas’ famed hotel strip came to mind, so Lexie wrote letters to the housekeeping supervisors of several hotels, and asked her city councilman for his help. Before long, she was getting phone calls and emails from hotels wanting to give her towels and bathmats. Then she conducted collection drives with her school classmates, fellow Girl Scouts and neighbors. Lexie has gathered so many towels and bathmats that she has given some to a hospice for its pet therapy program and to a ranch for abused horses. “By recycling old towels and bathmats, thousands of animals in Las Vegas are a lot more comfortable today,” said Lexie.
As State Honorees, Nasya and Lexie 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 Nevada students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Nevada's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Ryan Bobo, 14, of Carson City, Nev., a freshman at Nevada Connections Academy, hosted a book drive that brought in more than 1,200 books to fill the shelves of Mark Twain Elementary School and encourage the students to get more interested in reading. Ryan, who recruited a team of 20 students to help him advertise, promote and collect the books, conducted the drive when he learned that the school library had not been given a budget to purchase new books in many years.
Nathaniel Devera, 18, of Las Vegas, Nev., a senior at The Meadows School, raised $250 selling hand-dyed scarves made by the members of Opportunity Village, a nonprofit organization that provides employment and recreation for people with mental disabilities. Nathaniel wanted to gain more exposure for the organization and raise more money with their hand-made scarves by arranging booths at several art festivals and community events.
Gillian Eastman, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a junior at Southwest Career and Technical Academy, worked with students in her animation class to create the designs, animation and voiceovers to produce an e-book written by a boy in the class with autism. Gillian and her peers, under the direction of her animation teacher, were each assigned to animate a page or two of the classmate’s book, which is now available for sale online to benefit his future.
Keely Eshenbaugh, 17, of Henderson, Nev., a senior at Coronado High School, secured donations for and organized a “PB&J-athon” at her school where she brought together 100 student sandwich-makers to make 2,300 sandwiches and deliver them to a local homeless shelter. Keely, who created the event when she learned that a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be welcome at the homeless shelter, is proud that her event is now an annual project at her 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.