DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nicole Steiner, 17, of Parker and Madelene Kleinhans, 13, of Broomfield today were named Colorado's top two youth volunteers of 2016 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Nicole was nominated by Legend High School in Parker, and Madelene was nominated by Colorado Digital Academy in Lakewood. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 21st year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Nicole, a senior at Legend High School, has collected more than $40,000 worth of games, puzzles and books for organizations and individuals in 15 Colorado cities to make life a little brighter for hospitalized children, veterans, kids with special needs, cancer patients, the elderly, homeless people and students from low-income families. When Nicole was a young child, her mother took a “horrific” fall down some stairs at home and became disabled for a number of years. “Many people helped my family with meals, shopping and childcare,” recalled Nicole. “I am inspired by those who served us.” As a result, she decided to give back by doing something for others who are experiencing difficult times in their lives.
Since board games had been a beneficial distraction and social outlet for her mother during her convalescence, Nicole founded “A Game for You” in 2014. She began organizing large school and community donation drives to collect new and gently used board games, puzzles and books. Then, with the help of classmates and other volunteers, she delivered these items twice a year to hospitals, veterans organizations, special-needs classrooms, cancer centers, assisted-living facilities, homeless shelters, and school libraries. “Games, books and puzzles help stimulate mental and social interaction,” said Nicole, “which can lead to mental, emotional and physical healing.” So far, more than 5,500 people have received items from Nicole’s collection efforts. Nicole also recently launched a second project to provide a journal to every high school student in her school district.
Madelene, an eighth-grader at Colorado Digital Academy, organizes free bimonthly outings for kids who have critically ill siblings, to provide them with emotional support and show them that they are not alone. When she was 7, Madelene’s younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia and had to endure 38 consecutive months of chemotherapy. “I felt so left out and angry about my brother’s cancer,” said Madelene, “but after attending a camp for siblings of kids with cancer, I realized I wasn’t alone.” She also realized that she could do something to help other children in her situation.
Madelene approached There With Care, a nonprofit serving families in medical crises, to partner with her in developing a program she calls “Heartfelt Hugs.” The program offers free events every other month to young people ages 8-16 who have brothers or sisters with life-threatening illnesses, events such as a skate party with horse-drawn carriage rides, a visit to a pumpkin patch, a pool party and a huge birthday party. Madelene recruits participants by speaking at cancer camps, hosting booths at cancer events, and working through children’s hospitals. Then, with help from family members and friends, she plans all of the events, solicits donations and sponsorships, recruits volunteers, and secures facilities. Participation has grown from just two kids at the beginning, to nearly 50 at a recent event. “In the end, we find that we are all dealing with the same emotions and fears,” said Madelene.
As State Honorees, Nicole and Madelene 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 2016.
The program judges also recognized four other Colorado students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Colorado's Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Christina Bear, 17, of Golden, Colo., a member of the Girl Scouts of Colorado and senior at Colorado Academy, founded “Project STEM Student Mentors” in 2014 to teach and inspire young Hispanic students in technology and programming, after learning Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM fields. Christina prepared manuals and activities, recruited assistant teachers and taught third graders Scratch programming, Lego Robot construction and mini-science experiments in her program, which now provides for more than 140 students locally and is shared nationally across the Horizons network, a national nonprofit that provides enrichment learning for minorities.
Edwin Bodoni, 15, of Englewood, Colo., a freshman at Cherry Creek High School, founded the nonprofit “Colorado Wheelchair Fencing Foundation” to provide a wheelchair fencing program for children with disabilities, offering them a fun and healthy activity that promotes creativity, focus and decision-making abilities. Edwin, who raised $5,000 to support the program by hosting fencing tournaments, created a website, secured a venue, recruited volunteers, and hired a nurse to be present for the more than 80 children who have participated in the program so far.
Riley Holcomb, 12, of Longmont, Colo., a seventh-grader at Altona Middle School, has raised more than $18,000 to support the American Cancer Society by recruiting and leading a Relay for Life team for the past four years. Riley, who began her relationship with the American Cancer Society after her aunt died from kidney cancer, created the team “Riley’s Rebels” to help fund a cure for cancer.
Zachary Olkin, 15, of Niwot, Colo., a sophomore at Niwot High School, founded a “VEX IQ” robotics team at a local Spanish-speaking community for agricultural workers, while also working with his school’s Innovation Center to promote STEM throughout the elementary and middle schools in the district. Zachary, who discovered that the district’s teachers were unsure how to implement their school’s robotics clubs, also wrote a teachers’ guide and a formal robotics curriculum that is currently being used in four of the district’s schools.
“Prudential commends each of these young volunteers for using their creativity and compassion to bring positive change to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can make a difference, too.”
“We are pleased to honor these students not only for their exemplary acts of service, but for the powerful example they’ve set for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2016 honorees.”
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 2, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2016. 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 115,000 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, China and Brazil. 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