RALEIGH, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Davis Dawson, 16, of Concord and Samuel Park, 12, of Charlotte today were named North Carolina'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. Davis was nominated by Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord, and Samuel was nominated by Harris Road Middle School in Concord. 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).
Davis, a junior at Jay M. Robinson High School, raised more than $35,000 and led the efforts of over 200 volunteers to build a new house for a single mother and her four children through Habitat for Humanity. A Boy Scout since first grade, Dawson was looking for a way to make a lasting impact on his community when he came up with the idea of building a house. “Five years ago, my dad began working for Habitat for Humanity,” said Davis. “Seeing his positive attitude toward Habitat and his job of serving others on a daily basis inspired me.” Typically, Davis said, the construction of a new Habitat home costs $70,000. Raising such a large amount seemed like a daunting task until he learned his city would donate half the funds if he supplied the rest.
So Davis got busy fundraising and planning his project. He passed out flyers, networked with people in his community, created a website to explain his plan, and contacted local media to get the word out. He researched and applied for grants, made calls to 15 subcontractors, solicited donations of supplies and equipment from businesses, and helped recruit volunteers. After construction of the home started late last August, Davis and his large crew were on the job site every Saturday, working to enable a mother and her children to move from substandard housing into a new, clean, safe, and energy-efficient home of their own. Just in time for the holidays, Davis and his crew laid down their tools and welcomed the family into their new home. “I get cold chills from knowing how this project will go to serve her and her family for years to come,” said Davis.
Samuel, a seventh-grader at Harris Road Middle School, operates a video transfer service to raise funds for orphans in Kenya and Uganda, and delivers e-book “libraries” to orphanages, schools and youth centers in those countries. Samuel began volunteering when he was in the first grade through his school and church. A few years ago, he met the founder of a ministry that supports orphanages in Kenya and Uganda, and learned how desperate the need is there. “I learned how just $40 can support a child’s needs for a month, from clothes to daily meals to education,” said Samuel.
He wanted to help, but didn’t quite know how. Then he discovered how many adults worry about losing precious video footage recorded on degrading VHS tapes, and decided to begin converting them to DVDs and mp4 files to raise money for African children. Two years later, Samuel, an avid reader, was shocked to learn that in many parts of the world, including some areas of the U.S., children do not have ready access to books. He shipped books to Kenya, but to his dismay, many of them were lost or stolen. Samuel then realized “I could send thousands of books through an e-reader anywhere around the globe, securely and efficiently,” he said. So Samuel loads more than 1,000 titles onto Kindle e-readers, and delivers them through partner organizations to Africa and to schools and youth centers in North Carolina. “Together we can give the gift of literacy to millions of youth around the world,” Samuel said.
As State Honorees, Davis and Samuel 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 six other North Carolina students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are North Carolina's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Anna Chesson, 17, of Williamston, N.C., a junior at Riverside High School, helped to create and implement a peer tutoring project at her school that has successfully involved a total of 70 students who receive regular study help from their peers. Anna, who worked closely with her guidance counselor on the program, is trying to modify the program into a course that can provide the student tutors extra credit for their participation.
Jeffrey Friday, 17, of Gastonia, N.C., a senior at Forestview High School, created “Let’s Play Soccer,” a summer weekend soccer camp for children with developmental disabilities, who learned the fundamentals of the game from Jeffrey and other teen soccer players who served as volunteers. Jeffrey, who had previously spent two summers volunteering at Camp Joy, a summer camp for the developmentally disabled, created “Let’s Play Soccer” in the summer of 2014 as a way to continue making a difference when he could not attend Camp Joy.
Madison Howell, 17, of Kernersville, N.C., a member of the Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont in Colfax and a senior at East Forsyth High School, created and presented healthy nutrition and cooking classes for kids in grades K-12 enrolled in the “Kids’ Café” food assistance programs at the Second Harvest Food Bank, and also wrote and printed a cookbook in both English and Spanish that 250 participants took home to share with their families. Madison also partnered with the Bunker Hill United Methodist Church to raise $1,000 to expand the weekend food assistance program at Piney Grove Elementary School.
Kaitlyn Karcher, 17, of Sylva, N.C., a senior at Smoky Mountain High School, founded “Generation to Generation,” an entertainment therapy program that schedules talented young musicians to conduct regular performances for the patients of three area nursing homes. Kaitlyn, who plays the violin and sings, recruited a team of seven leaders to assist and encouraged 60 local youth musicians to offer their time and talents to perform for the program, which she started in 2012.
Megan Maness, 17, of Summerfield, N.C., a member of the Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont in Colfax and a senior at Northern Guilford High, organized and implemented a health and nutrition workshop for children at a local preschool to encourage healthy eating habits. Megan is currently researching healthy lunch recipes for a cookbook she is preparing to help parents learn how to make healthy lunch and snack choices for their children.
Lauren Matlosz, 16, of High Point, N.C., a junior at High Point Fine Arts Academy, wrote and produced “Umbrella Upcycle,” a website intended to educate people about the dangers of throwing away broken umbrellas, which take 1,000 years to biodegrade, and the benefit to finding creative ways to recycle and upcycle them. Lauren also attended a local Earth Day event and used donated fabric to make 30 wheelchair bags for the local VA Hospital.
“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