WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Minnesota's top two youth volunteers of 2015, Shivani Nookala, 17, of Golden Valley and Alanna Worrall, 12, of Brooklyn Park, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 20th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Shivani and Alanna – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Shivani and Alanna Minnesota's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Shivani, a junior at Breck School, started an indoor, vertical community garden at her school and leads a group of 10 students who work on the garden every day to provide fresh produce for a local food shelf. While Shivani’s homeroom class was volunteering at the FOCUS Minnesota food shelf, her teacher led discussions about hunger and mentioned that community gardening can play an important role in fighting hunger. “This moment sparked a call to action within me,” said Shivani. “I thought our school could play a major part in donating not just food, but fresh produce, to those in need.”
Shivani embarked on a yearlong independent study of community gardening, conducting research, networking with individuals and organizations across the country, and hosting a cross-community learning event. Then she persuaded her school to let her install an indoor garden with support and advice from a teacher, a gardening specialist and a couple of nonprofit organizations. Shivani recruited 10 fellow students to help her maintain the garden and donate its produce to feed the hungry. They are now assisting community gardens in other locations, and helping the city of Golden Valley start one. “Community gardening involves people directly making a change, and having the ability to do so regardless of their abilities and background,” said Shivani.
Alanna, a sixth-grader at the Washington Campus of Anoka Middle School for the Arts, assembles “Feel Better” baskets and provides other items to help distract sick children from the fear they often experience in the hospital. When Alanna had outpatient surgery at Gillette Children’s Hospital in 2009, “I was really scared,” she said, but hospital staff members made her smile and laugh by giving her stickers, a blanket and a stuffed animal. Alanna wanted to do the same for other kids in the hospital, so several months later, she emptied her piggy bank to make four Easter baskets for young patients at Gillette.
The next year, she asked family members and friends to help her make more Easter baskets, and then summer baskets as well. Eventually, Alanna also solicited donations through collection boxes, letters to local businesses, a partnership with a local nonprofit group and a “hat day” at her school. So far, she has distributed more than 300 “Feel Better” baskets, each containing a bubble-blowing kit, a toy or activity, candy and a stuffed animal. In addition, Alanna has used more than $2,000 in monetary donations to buy DVDs, video and board games, and craft supplies for hospitalized children. “Kids should have time to be kids even when they’re in the hospital,” said Alanna. “I don’t want them to be scared.”
“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.”
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
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
For B-roll of Minnesota's honorees at the 2015 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.