WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wyoming's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Grace Anderson, 16, of Devils Tower and Selah Jordan, 14, of Gillette, 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. Grace and Selah – 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 Grace and Selah Wyoming'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.
Grace, a member of the Crook County 4-H and a sophomore at Wyoming Virtual Academy, recruited school classmates, fellow 4-Hers and state FCCLA members to fill 600 shoeboxes with gifts for children in third-world countries, war zones and areas hit by natural disasters. For over a decade, Grace has helped her family prepare gift-filled shoeboxes for children in need as part of Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a program run by an international relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse. “I am passionate about helping children,” she said. “I took for granted that others knew about OCC shoeboxes, but when I talked to people I was surprised to learn many had never heard about them before.”
Grace decided she needed to make others aware of how they could help. To educate fellow students about the project, she organized a school assembly featuring a skit she wrote, then distributed a list of suggested gift items and invited all attendees to a “packing party.” Grace also sought help from county 4-H clubs through a presentation and a newsletter, and started getting assistance and donations from community members after a newspaper published a story on her project. In addition, Grace held a packing party for delegates at a state FCCLA conference last fall, which filled 368 shoeboxes. The boxes, containing toys, school supplies, hygiene items and crafts, not only show desperate children that someone cares about them, but also help people understand what life is like in places where many kids have never received a gift, said Grace.
Selah, an eighth-grader at Sage Valley Junior High, helps her family conduct church services once a month at a local nursing home, and spends time with the residents afterward to keep them company. Selah used to visit her grandmother at the nursing home, and was always struck by how much other residents, too, brightened up and made her feel welcome. “Their faces would literally light up,” she said. “It really hurt my heart to see how lonely they are and eager to have visitors.” So when Selah’s family volunteered to hold worship services at the facility, she definitely wanted to help.
“At first, I was very shy and scared,” she said. But she quickly warmed up to her role of spreading the gospel, choosing hymns to sing and lending her voice to musical numbers. When the service is over, Selah visits with the attendees. “I enjoy hearing their stories,” she said. “They are so sweet. Whenever I go, I feel like I’m part of their family. I love to brighten someone’s day with a helping hand and a smile.”
“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 Wyoming's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.