WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nebraska's top two youth volunteers of 2016, My'Kah Knowlin, 15, of Lincoln and Golden Kelly, 13, of Omaha, 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. My'Kah and Goldie – 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 My'Kah and Goldie Nebraska'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.
My'Kah, a freshman at Lincoln High School, formed a network of student role models and mentors at nine schools throughout Nebraska to help stop bullying and support victims. After years of being bullied herself, My’Kah believed that the only way to stop it was to commit suicide. “I couldn’t see any other way out,” she said. But she was lucky enough to have a strong support system, and instead resolved to provide other victims of bullying with the support she had benefited from. “I want to make sure that no one feels suicide is their only choice, but to know there are others out there who want to stand beside them and help them get through the hard times,” said My’Kah.
Because she felt that sharing personal stories of bullying would be key to helping other victims, My’Kah named her initiative “My STORIES,” which is also an acronym for “Students Teaching Others Respect, Independence, Empowerment and Strength.” She began recruiting students in her school and other schools to reach out to kids being bullied, offer to stand beside them, teach them how to document and report incidents, and bolster their self-respect. In one instance, My’Kah intervened directly to help save a young girl from taking her own life. “I may not be able to protect all students,” she said, “but I will stand up to those I see trying to hurt others, and I will continue to educate those who want to help.”
Goldie, a seventh-grader at Russell Middle School, has personally raised nearly $14,000 for the American Cancer Society over the past nine years as co-captain of a team participating annually in the society’s Relay for Life fundraiser. Goldie became aware of cancer at a very young age. She watched a friend battle a brain tumor, and saw three grandparents diagnosed with malignant melanoma. So by the time she was just 4 years old, Goldie wanted to help fight the disease by forming a fundraising team with her sister.
Goldie has raised more than $1,000 every year with her Relay for Life activities. She has sold clothing and toys at garage sales, sold lemonade and cookies, and marketed headbands and flip-flops throughout the year. She also has asked for donations rather than gifts on her birthday, and has twice donated her hair to make wigs for cancer patients. In addition, Goldie participates in a walk for juvenile diabetics, and plays bingo at least once a month with residents of a retirement home. “I love to give and make people smile,” she said.
“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 Nebraska's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.