WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Montana's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Nathanael Jourdonnais, 18, of Missoula and Berkley Stroh, 14, of Roy, 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. Nathanael and Berkley – 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 Nathanael and Berkley Montana'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.
Nathanael, a senior at Big Sky High School, organized a nine-month project to build a bike shelter in downtown Missoula so that bicycle commuters and recreational cyclists would have a convenient place to lock and protect their bikes. “I wanted to create a structure that would help promote alternative modes of travel in my community for years to come,” explained Nathanael. He figured more people in Missoula would use their bikes for commuting and for fun if there was a safe place to park them, and that, in turn, would benefit the environment.
He broached the idea with the director of Ecology Project International, who liked the idea and offered property next to the nonprofit’s historic building. Next, Nathanael went to city officials to research building codes and obtain permits. He worked with an architect to develop a design for the shelter that would be compatible with the historic building, and solicited donations from 25 businesses and individuals in the community. Nathanael then recruited 35 volunteers to help build the shelter with lumber, hardware and other materials – much of it recycled and repurposed – that he collected throughout the process. After nine months of work, the structure was finished and ready for bicyclists to enjoy. “I continue to maintain my shelter and will in the future to make sure that it stays in excellent condition for years to come,” said Nathanael.
Berkley, a member of the Fergus County 4-H in Lewistown and an eighth-grader at Roy Public Schools, collects used shoes in her community and ships them to Uganda, where many people don’t own a pair of shoes and contract infections from walking barefoot in dirt. Berkley decided to act after reading a book about Uganda by a missionary in that African country. “She talked about jiggers (mite larva) getting into the feet of those who have no shoes,” said Berkley. “The jiggers burrow into the feet and can cause infections if they are not removed.”
Berkley used social media to publicize her collection drive and began asking everyone she knew to donate shoes they no longer needed. After she had collected 50 pairs, she cleaned and disinfected them. She then sent them to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, where they were picked up by a family contact and taken to a local pastor, who distributed them to people in villages he travels to. Berkley said she will continue to collect and ship her shoes so that she can help as many people as possible. “Even the little things we have here in the U.S., like shoes, can be very valuable things in less fortunate countries,” she said. “Things we no longer use can make a big difference in someone else’s life.”
“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 Montana's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.