COLUMBUS, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Morlan Osgood, 16, of Loveland and Rachel Prior, 12, of Tallmadge today were named Ohio'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. Morlan was nominated by Loveland High School in Loveland, and Rachel was nominated by Tallmadge Middle School in Tallmadge. 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).
Morlan, a junior at Loveland High School, co-founded an educational program that has helped more than 11,000 students in grades 2-12 develop their interest and skills in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) through summer camps, after-school classes, conference workshops and other activities. Years ago, Morlan tutored a girl who hated math. Instead of using traditional tools such as flashcards, Morlan taught the girl how to use math concepts to program a LEGO robot. “The light bulb went off and she is now taking honors math courses!” said Morlan. “I realized if I could inspire one child, I could create a team to inspire hundreds.”
Morlan and her two brothers began recruiting other teens with strong STEM and interpersonal skills to teach and mentor kids, especially students who lack educational resources. Using LEGO robotic applications, the Osgoods and their “STEMs for Youth” organization now host seven summer camps and six after-school classes in Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and the District of Columbia. They also make presentations at national and international conferences, and teach technology classes for senior citizens. Morlan has spent more than 2,000 hours over the past five years on all aspects of STEMs for Youth, including curriculum development, fundraising, event planning, promotion and collaboration with business people and school administrators. “We are making a difference!” said Morlan. “Over 80 percent of our participants want to pursue STEM subjects and careers!”
Rachel, a sixth-grader at Tallmadge Middle School, organized a foot race to raise money and awareness for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), in honor of a close friend who has the neurological disorder, and then competed in the Cleveland Triathlon with that friend and 24 other kids that she recruited for the competition. Her friend, Ethan, “cannot talk or walk on his own, but he is one of my best friends,” said Rachel. “He is always happy even though he has to work very hard to do things that are simple for most people.”
In 2010, Rachel joined Team Ethan, a running group formed by Ethan’s parents to participate in fundraising events of UCP of Greater Cleveland. A few years later, she decided to create her own race so that she could help Team Ethan raise even more money to combat cerebral palsy. She and a few friends mapped out a race course, promoted the event with brochures and social media postings, persuaded local businesses to donate supplies and prizes, and supervised everything on race day. Over the past three years, Rachel’s “Elm Trail Race” has had more than 700 participants and raised over $7,500. Last year, Rachel competed with Ethan as a “youth push team” in the Cleveland Triathlon along with 24 friends, raising $5,000 for UCP.
As State Honorees, Morlan and Rachel 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 eight other Ohio students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Ohio's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Justin Bachman, 17, of Solon, Ohio, a senior at Solon High School, founded “Honor Good Deeds,” a nonprofit organization that teaches tolerance to teens through tolerance fairs, leadership workshops, and a solo, autobiographical presentation about his diagnosis with Tourette syndrome and past suicide attempts, which he has delivered to 50,000 people in 10 states. Justin, who has raised $200,000 to support the organization by providing exhibit space at his fairs and workshops, teaches kids not only how to be accepting of others, but organizes service projects as a positive way for teens to serve the community.
Kylynn Buchanan, 18, of Lower Salem, Ohio, a member of the Washington County 4-H in Marietta and a senior at Fort Frye High School, raised $10,500 to support BrAva Fight, an organization that provides financial help for children with cancer, by auctioning off a market lamb. Kylynn, who is a member of the 4-H and has raised and auctioned lambs for seven years, was thrilled when the bidding went beyond the typical $800 as auction participants realized that Kylynn was donating the proceeds to BrAva Fight.
Eva Dickinson, 18, of Wadsworth, Ohio, a senior at Our Lady of the Elms High School, founded “The One Thing,” an organization that brought together 150 student leaders from area high schools to raise $47,000 for 17 nonprofit organizations, after a workshop series that taught the teens the skills needed to enact change and develop fundraising projects. Eva, who led the entire organization and served as her school’s project leader, coordinated monthly meetings, promoted the program, and recruited local business and nonprofit leaders to run the teen workshops.
Emma Moore, 10, of Tipp City, Ohio, a fifth-grader at L. T. Ball Intermediate School, helped to raise $800 by organizing a “penny war” at her school to support the building of a new puppy house for “4 Paws for Ability,” an organization that trains service dogs for children with autism. Emma, who was inspired to support the organization because a dear friend uses a service dog, hopes to coordinate a similar fundraising project next year.
Christian Musarra, 18, of Northfield, Ohio, a junior at Nordonia High School, raised $10,000 over a ten-year period to support people in need through his annual “Christian’s Pumpkin Patch for Charity.” In 2013, after his ten-year run with the pumpkin patch ended, Christian became the fundraising director for a local day work farm for adults with special needs and so far has raised $700 toward his $5,000 goal.
Alex O'Brien, 15, of Montgomery, Ohio, a sophomore at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy High School, raised $9,000 to help create a sustainable garden with eight raised beds and an irrigation system at his school that has produced hundreds of fresh meals for local residents who are food insecure. Alex, who also recruited a team of student volunteers who receive service hours for their work, hopes to add a vineyard and an orchard to the garden in the future.
Mariah Reynolds, 16, of Cincinnati, Ohio, a freshman at The School for Creative & Performing Arts, founded “Leadership Initiative for Teens Using Philanthropy (L.I.F.T.U.P.)” in 2012, through which she has helped to raise significant resources in monetary and in-kind donations to support a number of charitable organizations and address various community needs. Mariah spreads her message of service as a way to overcome challenges through her website, a YouTube channel and a comic book she created.
Abigail Walouke, 18, of Mason, Ohio, a senior at William Mason High School, became a featured actor in 2012 in “Dead Serious About Life,” a traveling musical drama produced by a local ministry and performed throughout the tri-state area to help high school students better understand and cope with emotionally difficult subjects like drugs, bullying, teen pregnancy and suicide. Abigail, who is busy with practices and performances 40 weeks a year, has also helped to raised $10,000 to support the organization.
“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