WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Hawaii's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Anna Kimata, 16, of Honolulu and Orren Smith, 11, of Mililani, 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. Anna and Orren – 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 Anna and Orren Hawaii'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.
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 made sacrifices 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 Pacific Island countries and territories, 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. Because of a pressing need, the first shipment was sent to Saipan - a Northern Marianas 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 Smith, 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.
“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 Hawaii's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.