WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vermont's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Kiran Waqar, 16, of South Burlington and Miranda Walbridge, 13, of Barre, 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. Kiran and Miranda – 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 Kiran and Miranda Vermont'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.
Kiran, a sophomore at South Burlington High School, organized a project to make gift bags for hospitalized children in her community. For the past two years, Kiran has been an active volunteer, instructing the elderly in the use of technology, packaging food for children in Africa, and most recently helping to collect blankets and warm clothing for Syrian refugees. But she wanted to do something to help sick children in her area. “Children have the right to have fun and be happy, even if it may be from a hospital bed,” Kiran said. So she decided that she would fill gift bags with crayons, activity books, notebooks, stuffed animals, stickers and cards to help sick children pass the time while in the hospital.
She began by going from store to store to ask for donations to put in her gift bags. She received $390 worth of items and then recruited a team of volunteers to take on babysitting jobs and donate their earnings to her cause, raising another $300 to help fill her bags with gender-neutral toys. Then she wrote messages to include in each bag. Her project produced enough bags to give 50 kids “something to smile about,” said Kiran.
Miranda, a seventh-grader at Barre City Elementary and Middle School, volunteers in a variety of ways to make her community a better place to live, including working with athletes with special needs, preparing meals for senior citizens, spreading holiday cheer at a nursing home, collecting food for a food bank and wrapping gifts for children in need. “My family has always instilled in me the value of helping others less fortunate, so when the opportunities to help have come up over the years, I have jumped at the chance to make a difference,” Miranda said.
After seeing a flier about the Special Olympics United Sports program, Miranda became a buddy partner to an athlete with disabilities. Even though she had never tried the sport, she served on a snowshoe team and had so much fun and made so many friends that she later volunteered for the bocce team as well, and continues to be a buddy in both sports. “I enjoy seeing the looks of accomplishment on the athletes’ faces when they get the medal or ribbons,” she said. After going with her grandfather to deliver meals to seniors, Miranda decided she wanted to volunteer at the senior center, too, and has learned to prepare, package and keep track of meals delivered to the elderly. In addition, Miranda has joined her Girl Scout troop in entertaining residents of a local nursing home, gathering supplies for a food bank and wrapping donated gifts for less fortunate kids in her area.
“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 Vermont's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.