WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Tennessee's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Madison Childers, 18, of Murfreesboro and Graci Semptimphelter, 12, of Franklin, 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 Graci – 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 Graci Tennessee'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 Blackman High School, organized two golf tournaments that have raised nearly $10,000 to send veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials erected in their honor. “I was inspired by my grandfather’s service in World War II,” said Madison. “I wanted him to know how much I appreciate his service and dedication to our country. I feel that veterans do the most for our country and they receive the least amount of recognition.”
Working with a group of classmates, Madison persuaded the director of a local golf course to host the tournament, then distributed sponsor packets to more than 100 businesses in Murfreesboro. Next, she and her colleagues collected donations, signed up players and recruited volunteers to help run the event. After what she described as “200 hours of continuous stress and emotional breakdowns,” Madison’s first tournament raised $4,500 – enough to send 10 veterans to Washington with an organization called the Screaming Eagle Honor Flight. A second tournament held last October raised an additional $5,000 for veterans’ trips.
Graci, a sixth-grader at Battle Ground Academy, helped her mother initiate an activity program for individuals with special needs, and serves as a peer role model for a girl with Down syndrome. Graci learned about working with people with special needs from her little brother, who has autism, and from her mother, who has been friends with a man with Down syndrome since she was 15. Their nonprofit organization, 1Team1Goal, organizes football, cheer and dance teams, trains peer role models, and raises money to train educators on how best to work with kids with special needs.
Graci helps administer the organization’s activities, sends out emails and other communications, and makes T-shirts for the program. She also works one-on-one with a young girl who has Down syndrome, helping her learn to be part of a cheer team. “Through sports, special needs people find out new strengths and abilities, skills and success,” said Graci. “They find joy, confidence and fulfillment. I love helping them find this out about themselves and I love helping our community see how amazing these people are.”
“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 Tennessee's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.