North Dakota's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 20th Annual National Awards Program

Killdeer and Fargo students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Bismarck and Wyndmere

BISMARCK, N.D.--()--Nichole Hanzel, 18, of Killdeer and Lauren Knoll, 13, of Fargo today were named North Dakota'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. Nichole was nominated by Killdeer High School in Killdeer, and Lauren was nominated by Park Christian School in Moorhead. 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).

Nichole, a senior at Killdeer High School, created a youth cadet program for a local ambulance service to raise money for emergency medical care in her small but booming town, to assist at the ambulance squad’s station house, and to give junior high and high school students a chance to learn about emergency medicine. Two years ago, Nichole moved from a place where there were almost a thousand students in her class to a small town in North Dakota where there were only 30 students her age. “I was very much against the move,” said Nichole. “But I’ve always been taught that when I feel sorry for myself, I should do something for someone else.” When she learned that the Killdeer Area Ambulance Service was desperate for more volunteers to handle a sharp increase in calls due to the area’s oil boom, she started taking EMT classes with her parents. But she wanted to do more, and began thinking of other ways she could help while getting other young people involved as well.

Nichole proposed forming a youth cadet chapter to the ambulance director, who loved the idea. Her plan was then announced at school during halftime at a home football game, and several students came forward to join. Nichole’s cadets, who now number about a dozen, began by selling first-aid kits and checking blood pressure at a Christmas craft bazaar in exchange for donations. Members also have gone door-to-door soliciting funds to buy supplies for the ambulance squad. In addition, the cadets help out at the ambulance station by washing the vehicles, stocking supplies and serving meals at board meetings. “I can’t begin to describe how much I have grown personally,” said Nichole, who is now a licensed EMT. “It has certainly changed my outlook on living in a small town in North Dakota.”

Lauren, a seventh-grader at Park Christian School, has been volunteering once a month for the past nine years at a local homeless center, preparing and serving meals, and visiting with the homeless. She also has participated in several community service events sponsored by her church, school, the Salvation Army and a local animal shelter. Lauren was encouraged to volunteer by her mother, who also started serving her community when she was very young. One day Lauren’s brother came home from school and said he needed to find a community service project for a class assignment. Their mother made some calls and discovered a shelter that needed help for Thanksgiving. “We decided that we wanted to do this every month,” said Lauren. “It is important for me to do this because I need a constant reminder of my blessings and to take the spotlight off of me and put it onto others.”

Each month, Lauren, along with her grandmother, mother and two brothers, goes to the shelter to prepare a meal for people in need. She cuts up vegetables to make salads and vegetable trays, helps prepare and cook a main course, slices fruit, pours drinks and arranges trays of desserts. She then sits down and visits with the people who come to eat. “When I see their faces light up after receiving a warm meal or a big hug, it makes my heart soar,” said Lauren. “I love volunteering because I love planting that seed of hope in hearts that seem to be running low.”

As State Honorees, Nichole and Lauren 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.

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other North Dakota students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are North Dakota's Distinguished Finalists for 2015:

Lauryn Hinckley, 15, of Bismarck, N.D., a freshman at Century High School, has collected thousands of pounds of peanut butter, jelly and snacks, and $1,537 in cash donations, over the past four years to support the “Backpacks for Kids” program, for which she and other volunteers pack 500 backpacks twice monthly with food for people in need. Lauryn has participated in a number of other projects over the years to combat hunger, and is currently volunteering to pick up and deliver excess food from local grocery stores to organizations that feed the hungry.

Emily Lothspeich, 17, of Wyndmere, N.D., a senior at Wyndmere High School, is in the process of planning a community garden that will, when finished, provide produce for families in need in and around her community. Emily, who is developing this plan with her Future Farmers of America advisor and fellow club members, created the idea while attending the FFA’s Washington Leadership Conference, where she was tasked with implementing a “Living to Serve” plan.

“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.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or


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

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

Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833