OKLAHOMA CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alexandria (Lexie) Lerblance, 16, of McAlester and Malayna Stober, 13, of Oklahoma City today were named Oklahoma'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. Alexandria was nominated by Pittsburg County 4-H in McAlester, and Malayna was nominated by Carl Albert Middle School in Midwest City. 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).
Alexandria, a junior at McAlester High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has donated nearly $20,000 worth of wigs and other head coverings over the past four years to approximately 150 cancer patients in her eight-county region. Almost six years ago, Alexandria’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy treatments. As she was losing her hair, she and Alexandria traveled to Tulsa to a “wig closet” that offered free wigs to patients. “She was overwhelmed with trauma and anxiety,” said Alexandria, “and this particular wig closet was rather nasty, with smoke, a poor selection, and not much help with service to clients.” The mother and daughter left empty-handed that day, but soon decided to open their own wig closet to provide better access, better service, and nicer wigs to women with cancer in Southeastern Oklahoma.
Alexandria and her mother persuaded a local hospital to let them use a room for their closet, partnered with a local beauty school to clean and style donated wigs, and asked the American Cancer Society to help raise money and get the word out to patients. Alexandria’s main role has been to raise funds and solicit donations of wigs, scarves, hats and turbans, in large part by speaking to civic organizations using a PowerPoint presentation. Through these presentations, she also has been able to recruit 10 influential community members to help with the wig closet. “My goal has been to help cancer patients deal with one of the most traumatizing aspects of the fight against cancer,” she said.
Malayna, a seventh-grader at Carl Albert Middle School, initiated two annual collection drives in her community to buy diapers for the infants of families at a local crisis center and to provide needed items to foster and homeless children. She also participates in efforts to collect shoes for children in need, mentor elementary school kids, promote pet adoptions and encourage organ donations. Malayna started volunteering with her mother when she was 5 years old. “There wasn’t a lot I could do then but I was always happy after an event because I love helping others,” she said. “As I got older, I looked for organizations where I could make a difference.”
While competing in the National American Miss Pageant, Malayna learned about the needs of an infant crisis center in her city, and began a yearly drive called “Dollars for Diapers.” She also discovered a school for homeless kids and an organization that supports foster children, so Malayna launched an annual drive to benefit them, asking people in her community to clean out their children’s rooms and donate new or gently-used items. In addition, she has participated in local parades and street cleanups, and is now serving on the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Teen Board in her city. “Through all of these activities, I work to make someone’s day a little happier and give them hope for a brighter tomorrow,” said Malayna.
As State Honorees, Alexandria and Malayna 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 Oklahoma students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Oklahoma's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Emma Duncan, 17, of Edmond, Okla., a senior at Edmond North High School, co-chaired her school’s community service organization, “Bring a Light To Others (BALTO),” and managed 22 fundraising events and 138 student participants to a record-breaking fundraising total of $301,100 to support a day care for children with special needs. Emma, who personally raised more than $15,000 for BALTO, is also her student council president.
Gloria Tso, 17, of Bartlesville, Okla., a senior at Bartlesville High School, founded a student mentoring organization called “Leading Ladies” that provides internships, resources and mentors to encourage young women in difficult circumstances to pursue their education. Gloria, who had previously created a tutoring program, has invited female leaders including politicians, physicians and lawyers to speak at meetings for the program, which she is planning to expand throughout the state.
Taylor Wood, 18, of Lawton, Okla., a senior at Chattanooga High School, founded “Daddies Empowering Daughters,” an event that provided information on internet safety and basic self-defense for girls in an effort to empower them to protect themselves. Taylor, who worked closely with three friends to organize all aspects of the event and raised $1,000 to support the project, was invited to present a similar event for a sorority at Cameron University.
Alana Wynn, 17, of McAlester, Okla., a member of the American Red Cross in McAlester and a senior at McAlester High School, has raised nearly $40,000 to benefit the American Red Cross by creating and implementing the “Red Cross Memorial Golf Tournament” in 2010 to honor the important volunteer work of the former chair of her local American Red Cross chapter. Alana recruited volunteers, coordinated sponsorships, and managed team sign-ups for the event, which raised money to support those who have lost their homes to tornadoes, floods and fire.
“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