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

Salt Lake City and Sandy students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Layton, Providence, Herriman and Bountiful

SALT LAKE CITY--()--John Wesley Orton, 18, of Salt Lake City and Amelia Slama-Catron, 13, of Sandy today were named Utah'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. John was nominated by Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City, and Amelia was nominated by Midvale Middle School in Midvale. 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).

John, a senior at Innovations Early College High School, started a weeklong writing and literature summer day camp for kids on Utah’s Navajo Reservation after helping his older brother run a similar camp focusing on science and math. When John’s brother founded his camp on the reservation in 2011, John worked at the camp as an all-around assistant, logistics and fundraising director and science instructor. “I knew that adding a writing/literature camp (my specialties) would improve students’ academic outcomes,” he said.

So two years ago, John negotiated the use of the reservation’s elementary school building for his “Camp Shakespeare,” which he envisioned running the week before his brother’s camp. To pay for supplies and food for meals, he began designing, making, selling and installing peg rails in homes and offices. That and other fundraisers have raised more than $5,000 to support both free camps. At each camp, young Navajo students are taught by trained middle and high school student volunteers, using lesson plans created by older high school and college students. A couple of elementary school teachers help the students prepare healthy lunches and snacks for the campers. “We have served hundreds of students over the past four years,” said John. “Not only are the camps vital to the community as academic enrichment activities and opportunities to have fresh fruits and vegetables in (campers’) diets,” he said, “but they also provide one of the few opportunities Navajo students have to participate in an organized service activity and gain leadership skills.”

Amelia, an eighth-grader at Midvale Middle School, devoted more than 100 hours of her time last summer to developing an activity booklet to help older children enjoy and learn more from the exhibits at a nearby children’s museum. Amelia said she really enjoyed the activities and special events at the Treehouse Children’s Museum in Ogden when she was younger, but as she got older, she noticed that her younger sister was the one having all the fun, and she was just bored. “So, I decided to fix the problem,” said Amelia.

She began by observing children at the exhibits, storytimes and interactive theater program and found that everything seemed to be geared for 6 year olds. After much brainstorming, Amelia decided to create an activity booklet that would engage older children to “learn, think, and respond” while viewing the museum’s exhibits. Amelia’s booklet is now available free to everyone at the museum who wants one. “It allows them to enjoy the hands-on exhibits available there at the same time as their younger siblings,” she said. “They can learn and have fun at the same time!” Amelia also makes presentations to visitors at the museum, and helped develop a “play café” to teach children how to order and behave in a restaurant.

As State Honorees, John 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.

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are Utah's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:

Alexis Carlsen, 17, of Layton, Utah, a senior at Davis High School, created a reading room complete with 400 books, bookshelves, blankets and carpets for the children staying at the Kaysville Safe Harbor Women’s Domestic Violence Shelter. Alexis, who spent a short time at the shelter with her family when she was 4 years old, spent more than 115 hours preparing to create the reading room.

Emilee Hamilton, 17, of Providence, Utah, a senior at Mountain Crest High School, founded “Utah YOUth Connect,” a program that connects teen volunteers from all area schools with senior citizens living in 10 local nursing homes. Emilee, who created a website and secured sponsors to offset the costs of busing the students, has tracked 3,310 hours of student service visits since the program began in 2012.

Marina McNeill, 17, of Herriman, Utah, a senior at Riverton High School, is a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation whose role is to coordinate “wish proclamation parties” which are elaborate announcements and celebrations of a child’s soon-to-be-granted wish. Marina, who works with her mother on the wish proclamations, also created the Facebook page, “Service Opportunities 101,” to help recruit youth volunteers to make each wish proclamation party a success.

Yvonne Ward, 17, of Bountiful, Utah, a senior at Bountiful High School, created a summer math and science camp called “Explore Science!” in 2012 to encourage girls to follow science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers by exposing them to topics such as cell biology, electricity, chemistry, the science of music, environmental science and rocketry. Yvonne, who leads the sessions, has hosted two seasons of the camp and plans to train her younger sister to take over once she graduates high 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.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.


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


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


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