WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alabama's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Madison Haney, 18, of Killen and Ciara Laird, 10, of Troy, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 21st annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Madison and Ciara – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank 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 Madison and Ciara Alabama'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.
Madison, a senior at Florence High School, collected backpacks for a local foundation to fill with food on Fridays and send home with students who get free lunch at school, but have little to eat at home over the weekend. While Madison was eating breakfast at a weekend band practice, a classmate approached her and asked if she had any extra food. When questioned, the girl said she hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day. “She said she received free lunch at school but her family didn’t have money to buy food at home,” said Madison. “This broke my heart.” Upon further investigation, Madison discovered that many students at her school go to bed hungry. She was determined to help.
Madison contacted a local foundation that serves at-risk children and learned that it needed backpacks for a weekend food program benefiting more than 300 at-risk children in the area. She asked her friends to donate their gently used backpacks, then posted details about her project on social media and placed donation boxes around her school. She also made fliers and began handing them out to parents at other schools in her district. It wasn’t long before local businesses began supporting her efforts by donating both backpacks and school supplies. After Madison collected all of the donated backpacks, she brought them home, and with help from her mother, cleaned and repaired them before delivering them to the foundation.
Ciara, a fifth-grader at New Life Christian Academy, began a food drive to feed the hungry in her community after witnessing someone eating out of a dumpster outside a restaurant. After that disturbing experience, Ciara placed a small box inside her school classroom to collect canned food for the Salvation Army. That effort has now become a continuous food drive, and Ciara, as president of her school’s honor society, is actively encouraging all students to work together to feed the hungry. “These food drives provide an opportunity to inform, encourage and involve all participants in understanding and addressing hunger issues in our community,” she said.
Ciara also has filled shoeboxes with Christmas gifts for children in need, made care packages for families affected by local storms, and volunteered at a local nursing home and sang Christmas songs to the residents of the home. She also assisted at a local community garden that is connected to an afterschool center.
“By using their time and talents to better their communities, these young people have achieved great things – and become examples for us all,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to an exemplary group of honorees.”
“These students have demonstrated a truly remarkable level of leadership and commitment in the course of their volunteer service, and it’s an honor to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Michael Allison, president of NASSP. “We commend each and every one of them for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2016 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 29,000 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 21 years, the program has honored more than 115,000 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. 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 pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
For B-roll of Alabama's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.