WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Caleb White, 12, of Commerce Township, Mich., was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2015 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 20th annual national award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Selected from a field of more than 33,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Caleb has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for his school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of his choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Hunter Gandee, 15, of Temperance. Hunter and Caleb were named Michigan’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2015 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Caleb, a seventh-grader at Clifford H. Smart Middle School, hands out boxes of food, toiletries and warm garments to the homeless on the streets of Detroit each year during the Christmas season, and last August threw a back-to-school party that provided 800 children in need with backpacks stuffed with new school supplies. When Caleb was 6, he was driving to the circus with his family when he saw a homeless man sleeping on the side of the road and wondered why he wasn’t sleeping in a house. When Caleb learned the man didn’t have a home, he wanted to do something to help, so he decided to put together holiday boxes and distribute them to homeless people. During the 2014 holiday season, Caleb handed out 150 of his Christmas boxes and 100 winter coats.
Last summer, Caleb heard from a pastor who had to cancel an annual back-to-school party for kids in need due to lack of funds. “I certainly did want to help,” said Caleb. He sent an email to a prominent businessman who helped start a school supply company to see about getting discounted supplies. To his amazement, the man asked the CEOs of several companies to help Caleb plan an event. Caleb’s school also helped by sending emails to parents and a press release to publicize the party. On August 23, more than 100 volunteers showed up to treat 800 children in need to a fun-filled day. Local barbers cut hair, a nail salon gave girls manicures, and there was plenty of food and lots of games to play. Most importantly, Caleb made sure every child left with the supplies needed to start the school year. “I am a boy with lots of new friends,” he said, “who feels thankful for the opportunity to bring a smile to people’s faces.”
Hunter, a freshman at Bedford High School, carried his 8-year-old brother, who has cerebral palsy, on a 40-mile walk to increase awareness of the disease, and raised $115,000 to support research and build an all-inclusive playground at his brother’s elementary school. Hunter said he had been looking for a way to let people know about the challenges of cerebral palsy because his brother “needed better equipment, better medical practices, and better support from the world around him.” But nothing came to mind until his mother told him she had a dream in which Hunter was carrying his younger brother. “We decided to turn that idea into reality,” said Hunter.
Hunter spent three months talking about his planned walk to the news media and to students at other schools. Then, on June 7, he put his brother, Braden, on his back at 8 a.m. in front of 250 supporters in his school’s wrestling room and began walking. Every three hours they took a break, but the day was hot, and when Hunter stopped walking for the night, it was 11 p.m. The next morning, the boys pushed on and finally, to cheers and applause, arrived in the middle of the afternoon at their destination – the University of Michigan’s Bahna Wresting Center. “Both my brother and I were physically and emotionally exhausted,” said Hunter. “I was sore and stiff but I knew we had to make it.” Although Hunter did not ask directly for donations, he linked his Facebook page to the Cerebral Palsy Research Consortium at the University of Michigan and attracted more than $15,000 in donations. Since then, over $100,000 has been donated to Braden’s school’s PTA by people who saw stories about Hunter’s walk. This money will be used to build an all-inclusive playground at Braden’s school, said Hunter.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, we are delighted to recognize the 2015 honorees for their exemplary volunteer service,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These young people have demonstrated leadership, compassion and perseverance, and we look forward to seeing all they accomplish in the future.”
“These honorees represent the best of what America’s youth have to offer,” said G.A. Buie, president of NASSP. “They have set a powerful example for their peers by proving that one young person really can make a difference, and it is a privilege to shine a spotlight on their good works.”
In addition to Caleb, these are the other 2015 National Honorees:
Jake Gallin, 13, of New Rochelle, N.Y., a seventh-grader at Albert Leonard Middle School, founded an organization called “Stars for Cars” and has raised more than $12,000 for the United Service Organization (USO) by selling star-shaped magnetic car decals that honor families of soldiers who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
Raghav Ganesh, 13, of San Jose, Calif., a seventh-grader at Joaquin Miller Middle School, designed and built a device that uses sensors to detect objects beyond the reach of the white canes used by many visually impaired people.
Carolina Gonzalez, 18, of Coral Gables, Fla., a senior at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, started a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 500 undocumented young immigrants apply for temporary residence and employment in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and has raised more than $22,000 to pay the application fees of those who cannot afford them.
Eric Li, 14, of Manvel, Texas, an eighth-grader at Pearland Junior High West, founded a nonprofit organization with his siblings that has collected nearly $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations to help children around the world recover from major disasters.
Arturo (AJ) Mattia, 15, of Turnersville, N.J., a freshman at Holy Cross Academy, survived bone cancer and a leg amputation to become a prominent champion for pediatric cancer awareness and fundraising.
Morlan Osgood, 16, of Loveland, Ohio, a junior at Loveland High School, co-founded an educational program that has helped more than 14,000 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.
Samantha Petersen, 18, of South Windsor, Conn., a home-schooled senior, founded a nonprofit organization that disseminates information about scoliosis, screens children in low-income communities for the disease, and offers emotional support to those undergoing corrective surgery.
Elizabeth Quesenberry, 17, of Wilmington, Del., a senior at Padua Academy High School, overcame a diagnosis of brain cancer to start a nonprofit organization that has raised $100,000 over the past six years to increase awareness of childhood cancer, help fund the search for a cure, and ease the financial pressure on families of young cancer patients.
Carter Ries, 14, of Fayetteville, Ga., an eighth-grader at Konos Academy, created a weeklong educational curriculum with his younger sister that is teaching kids about the importance of reducing plastic pollution.
The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Buie of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl expert for Girl Scouts of the USA; Robert Bisi, senior public affairs manager for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Tracy Hoover, president of Points of Light; Reneé Jackson, senior manager of education programs at the National PTA; Maxine Margaritis, vice president of volunteer services for the American Red Cross; Delia Pompa, senior vice president for programs at the National Council of La Raza; Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council; Dru Tomlin, director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education; Kevin Washington, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA; and two 2014 National Honorees: Sean Egan of Staten Island, N.Y., a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and Kinsey Morrison of Goshen, Ky., a freshman at Stanford University.
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 33,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 20 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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
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Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
For B-roll of Michigan’s honorees at the 2015 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.