SALEM, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Marissa McGinnis, 17, of Klamath Falls and Noah Miller, 14, of McMinnville today were named Oregon'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. Marissa was nominated by Mazama High School in Klamath Falls, and Noah was nominated by Duniway Middle School in McMinnville. 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).
Marissa, a senior at Mazama High School, took on responsibility for organizing an annual volleyball game at her school that raised more than $6,500 to provide local uninsured women with free mammograms. Since her freshman year, Marissa has participated in her school’s volleyball program and in its yearly “Pink Game,” a fundraiser benefiting Norma’s Challenge, a local organization dedicated to breast cancer awareness and support. “As my senior year approached, I volunteered to take over as head coordinator of the game,” she said. “I rejoiced at the opportunity to take charge.”
Marissa spent last summer seeking sponsorships from local businesses so she could buy and print 500 T-shirts for the game, which she then sold with the help of teammates and members of the opposing team at both high schools and throughout the community. She also coordinated the sale of raffle tickets, refreshments at the game, and the collection of individual donations. Marissa’s “Pink Game,” which drew a “huge turnout” of students and community members last September, featured not only exciting volleyball, but also breast cancer survivors who spoke during breaks in the action. “It really proved to everyone that this is something that should be taken very seriously and that breast cancer affects everyone,” said Marissa.
Noah, an eighth-grader at Duniway Middle School, assists the children’s worship leader at his church on a regular basis and serves food at a local soup kitchen every chance he gets. Noah got involved in both volunteer activities through a leadership class at his school that encourages community service. “Volunteering at church was one of my first choices,” he said. “I really wanted to help out with children.” He performs small tasks for the youth worship leader and helps her teach 2- to 11-year-olds about God and good citizenship. He also helps lead the kids in vocals and hand motions during music sessions.
At the soup kitchen, Noah serves up to 150 meals an evening to the homeless and other hungry residents of McMinnville, and has recruited others to volunteer there, too. “I wanted to gain the experience of being able to serve the less fortunate of the community and impact their lives,” he said. “I have learned that hunger and homelessness is a big problem and something needs to be done.” His work at both his church and the food bank has taught Noah that volunteering “is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life,” he said.
As State Honorees, Marissa and Noah 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 Oregon students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Oregon's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Jessi Beyer, 16, of Banks, Ore., a junior at Valley Catholic High School, founded the “Friends of Jordan Memorial 5K & Kids’ Run” in 2013 and raised $4,500 to offset the cost of medical bills for the treatment of the infant son of a family friend who had been diagnosed with a severe immune disorder and died shortly after diagnosis. Jessi, who ran the entire event with the help of a crew of volunteers, has turned the event into an annual fundraiser and, in 2014, raised an additional $5,000 to support another child with the same immune disorder.
Grant Crim, 19, of Coquille, Ore., a senior at Winter Lakes High School, has raised $50,000 to support the American Cancer Society by participating in its annual Relay for Life as a cancer survivor and as a team captain, event co-chair, and most recently as the “Hero of Hope” representative whose main goal was to inspire people from 12 western states to get involved. Grant, who has had numerous surgeries and chemotherapy to treat brain tumors, and has lost his vision as a result, has worked hard to give back to the organization that provided hope for him and his family through research, clinical trials and support during his treatments.
Talia Quatraro, 18, of Lake Oswego, Ore., a senior at Lake Oswego Senior High School, is a volunteer coach for a cheer team for athletes with special needs, and has helped create and teach choreography, traveled with and advocated for the team, and has also raised $4,000 to support the team since 2010. Talia, inspired to volunteer when she witnessed the athletes’ dedication and pride, volunteers more than one hundred hours each season and also volunteers during the team’s summer training camps.
Cynthia Santiago, 14, of Portland, Ore., a freshman at St. Mary’s Academy, has dedicated every Sunday for the past two years to help serve hot meals to the hungry through a program called “Potluck in the Park.” Cynthia, who was originally introduced to the program as a way to hang out with a friend who was volunteering, has since become a passionate advocate for the homeless and hungry and a valued volunteer.
“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