HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Anna Kimata, 15, of Honolulu and Orren Smith, 11, of Mililani today were named Hawaii'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. Anna was nominated by Punahou School in Honolulu, and Orren was nominated by Hanalani Schools in Mililani. 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).
Anna, a sophomore at Punahou School, organized a project to collect books and other educational materials for schools in the small island nation of Palau, where many students lack basic educational resources. From a very young age, Anna’s parents taught her the importance of learning and have sacrificed time and money to send her to an excellent school. “In the United States, every child is gifted with the chance to attend school, no matter where they live,” Anna said. But when she interned at the state capitol, she learned that in many small countries, schools lack the basic educational resources that Americans take for granted. Anna said she needed to do something to help students at those schools “cultivate their love of learning and give them the knowledge to pursue their dreams.”
After researching small countries in the Pacific, Anna decided to focus her efforts on Palau, located in Micronesia. She began by meeting with the country’s president to discuss its educational needs. Then she wrote letters to request donations, met with leaders of organizations that could help, and recruited 40 volunteers. When donations began coming in, Anna and her team sorted through the materials to make sure everything was in good condition. She then partnered with two companies that agreed to transport the items. Due to logistical issues, the first shipment was sent to Saipan - a neighboring island that had been affected by Typhoon Soudelor - with the understanding that future shipments would be sent to Palau. To date, Anna’s efforts have gathered more than $4,000 worth of educational supplies for the students of Pacific Island countries. “I hope to continue this project in the future so that I can pay forward the gift of education,” she said.
Orren, a sixth-grader at Hanalani Schools, arranged for a presentation on disaster preparedness at his school to educate students and their families on how to increase their chances of surviving a natural catastrophe. “I live in Hawaii, and we are at risk of many natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes,” said Orren. Last year, he said, was an especially bad one for hurricanes, and it got him thinking that a lot of people have no idea how to prepare for a weather emergency. “I think it is important for residents of Hawaii because our state is isolated and it could take a while for help to reach us,” he said.
Orren began by researching state guidelines on ways to prepare for various natural disasters. He then contacted agencies involved in emergency planning to get more information, obtained permission from school officials to hold a student assembly, and invited a Coast Guard officer to be a guest speaker. Orren then prepared materials for the speaker to use in the presentation and handouts for the students to take home. More than 150 students attended the presentation and learned the importance of early planning and ways to help their families stay safe in the event of a natural disaster.
As State Honorees, Anna and Orren 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 two other Hawaii students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Hawaii's Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Britnee Akau, 15, of Lihue, Hawaii, a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, is an avid volunteer involved in numerous service projects, and recently collected and distributed 101 books about Hawaii through her “Gift of Aloha Book Drive.” In addition, Britnee helped combat bullying with presentations to second graders where she shared her personal experiences as a bullying victim.
Phillip Palmore, 17, of Mt. View, Hawaii, a senior at Kea’au High School, has designed and led a project to build an ADA compliant outdoor walkway and garden for residents of the Hilo Medical Center Extended Care Facility. Phillip, who began the project in 2013, worked with architects to ensure his design was in compliance for wheelchair use, recruited sponsors and volunteers, and secured funds to support the project.
“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