Vermont's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 20Th Annual National Awards Program

Bennington and Colchester students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Waterbury and Woodstock

MONTPELIER, Vt.--()--Alexina Federhen, 17, of Bennington and Abigail Jacunski, 13, of Colchester today were named Vermont'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. Alexina was nominated by Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, and Abigail was nominated by Mater Christi School in Burlington. 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).

Alexina, a senior at Mount Anthony Union High School, makes jewelry to raise money for endangered species, collects stuffed animals for children and senior citizens, campaigns against bullying, and participates in many other volunteer activities. As a very young child, Alexina began helping her mother foster abused, sick and feral cats as well as orphaned birds. “I have always had a passionate commitment to protecting animals, not only abused or homeless domestic pets, but also endangered species,” said Alexina. “I find the act of helping others, furry, feathered or human, very gratifying.”

To advance her interest in protecting animals, Alexina began making custom jewelry with her mother, selling necklaces, earrings and bracelets at craft fairs, arts cooperatives and on eBay. The proceeds are donated to organizations that work to preserve the habitat of endangered species such as the Canadian Lynx and the Luna moth. Alexina also collects stuffed animals from classmates, local families and thrift stores, and delivers them to children in foster care, homeless shelters, hospitals and disaster zones; and to nursing homes and memory care centers. In addition, Alexina draws upon her own experience as a victim of bullying to speak out against this abusive behavior. She created a PowerPoint presentation to alert adults to the signs and impact of bullying and to offer strategies for intervention, and is establishing forums for students to discuss the issue.

Abigail, an eighth-grader at Mater Christi School, participated with her church youth group in two fasts to help feed the hungry, a service mission trip to address several local needs, a “sleep out” to provide mosquito nets for Africans, and a project to make bicycles available in third-world countries. “My youth group leader was a huge inspiration to go out of my comfort zone and try to help people,” said Abigail. “I feel that doing volunteer work is important because that is how you make the world a better place.”

Abigail took part in two 30-hour fasts to raise money for World Vision, and during the fasts, bought nutritious food for low-income families, made sandwiches for homeless people, and collected food for a local food shelf. “The most difficult part of the 30-hour fast was to put yourself in others’ shoes and realize that a lot of people are hungry,” she said. On her mission trip, Abigail helped make dinner for families at a Ronald McDonald House, prepare snacks for kids at vacation Bible school, and stuff envelopes for an urban ministry fundraising appeal. In addition, Abigail slept outside in an “Imagine No Malaria” sleep-out, and helped process bikes for a program that sends them overseas to people needing basic transportation. “What is better than helping another person?” said Abigail.

As State Honorees, Alexina and Abigail 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.

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other Vermont students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Vermont's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:

Abby Miles, 17, of Waterbury, Vt., a senior at Harwood Union High School, has been volunteering regularly at the food shelf since 2012, packing food bags and delivering them to senior citizens who cannot pick up the food themselves. Abby, who has been a passionate volunteer for many causes, also makes personal connections with the seniors when she delivers their food, visiting with them and listening to stories of their past.

Peter Wilson, 16, of Woodstock, Vt., a junior at Woodstock Union High School & Middle School, raised $1,200 to purchase supplies for the creation and installation of a solar powered, steam-fed drip irrigation system for a community garden that provides produce for the local food shelf through Change the World Kids, a nonprofit organization for which Peter has volunteered for five years. Peter, chair of the organization’s sustainability committee, conducted extensive research into a sustainable irrigation system, worked with local engineers on the plans, wrote and received a grant, and has prepared instructions for constructing the system so other organizations can also benefit.

“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.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or


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

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

Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833