CHEYENNE, Wyo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Laura Harris, 17, of Green River and Trinity Rich, 11, of Douglas today were named Wyoming'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. Laura was nominated by Green River High School in Green River, and Trinity was nominated by Douglas Upper Elementary School in Douglas. 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).
Laura, a senior at Green River High School, has helped raise a great deal of money to grant wishes for dozens of sick children in her state, makes blankets for newborns in foster care, and does chores for veterans who need help. Laura was born with a heart defect and was not expected to live to see her 10th birthday. But thanks to experimental surgery, Laura is not only alive, but has dedicated herself to helping others. “I am grateful every moment for the extended time I have been allowed,” she said. “I express my gratitude by providing hope to others.”
To raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Laura enlists the help of community organizations, church youth groups, sports teams, family members and friends. She promotes the cause through radio, posters at a local grocery store, flyers she distributes at school, and word of mouth. “I was given additional years to live, so I feel great passion in leading fundraising efforts to provide for the wishes of children whose lives are cut short,” she said. After Laura’s brother returned from overseas with a traumatic brain injury, she decided to help veterans, too. She publicizes her services on the radio, urging veterans who need help to contact her. She has planted flowers for them, mowed lawns, cleaned houses, cooked meals, and simply visited with those who are lonely. “Charles Dickens tells us, ‘No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others,’” said Laura. “On those days when I lift others, I feel my life has tremendous value.”
Trinity, a fifth-grader at Douglas Intermediate School, performs a variety of volunteer tasks for neighbors and senior citizens because she “just felt like helping them was the right thing to do.” While visiting her grandmother to help with chores, Trinity noticed that other residents in the apartment building needed assistance, too. So she began helping them do their laundry, put away groceries, take out the trash and handle other basic tasks. “It just seems like these people always need help with something,” said Trinity.
Last summer, Trinity expanded her helpful volunteering to her neighborhood. She went door-to-door and asked her neighbors what she could do for them. As a result, she cheerfully walked dogs, watered lawns, helped with yardwork, and even watched a family’s house while they were away. “Being kind and helpful is a great thing,” said Trinity. “It made me feel good about myself.”
As State Honorees, Laura and Trinity 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 two other Wyoming students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wyoming's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:
Adam Jones, 18, of Otto, Wyo., a senior at Burlington High School, spearheaded a project to complete the roofing and siding on a partially-constructed storage and concession stand at the local park. Adam worked with the local Otto Park Board, donors who donated materials, and 20 fellow Boy Scouts he recruited for the project.
Hannah Nieslanik, 17, of Cokeville, Wyo., a senior at Cokeville High School, became a certified emergency medical responder after taking a 100-hour training course in March 2014, and has since been a regular volunteer on the Cokeville Volunteer Ambulance Service. Hannah takes vital signs, assesses patients, and helps to calm patients down in the midst of an emergency.
“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