WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--New Hampshire's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Emma Williams, 17, of Merrimack and Caitlin Shapleigh, 12, of Londonderry, 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. Emma and Caitlin – 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 Emma and Caitlin New Hampshire'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.
Emma, a senior at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, began organizing an annual basketball tournament at a nearby high school in 2011 to raise money to provide Christmas gifts for families in need in her community. As a member of her school’s service group in eighth grade, Emma was challenged by the club’s advisor to think of ways to raise money for charity. At the time, she was an avid basketball player, so it didn’t take too long for Emma to propose a fundraising “Heart to Hoops” basketball tournament.
After obtaining permission to use the school gym for a weekend in November, Emma reached out to coaches and recruited eight teams, and then, with the help of her father, lined up referees. The teams all paid an entrance fee to play in the tournament, and additional money was raised by selling tickets to spectators, and conducting a raffle and shooting competitions. Emma also encouraged spectators to bring canned food to the tournament, which was donated to charity. Emma’s annual tournaments have raised more than $10,000, enough to brighten the holidays of 80 families in her area. “My favorite part is the kids,” she said. “It’s amazing to see young basketball players become excited about doing something they love, while making a difference in the world.”
Caitlin, a sixth-grader at Londonderry Middle School, resolved to conduct one volunteer project each month over the course of a year, and also launched a campaign to persuade other young people to get involved in volunteering. “My mom has a saying, ‘touch one, touch many,’” said Caitlin. “She explained that if you help one person, you have no idea how many other people might be helped in the future by one act of kindness. It is now my motto, which inspires me when volunteering.”
In August of 2014, Caitlin sat down with a calendar and marked the volunteer activities she wanted to do each month. These included collecting canned goods for a food pantry, men’s winter coats for a church, and more than 100 books for a local library. She also performed at a senior center with her baton team, made gift bags for veterans, and stuffed backpacks with donated school supplies for students in need. Every time she volunteered, Caitlin documented the activity with photos to share with other young people as part of her “Kids Can Too!” campaign. In addition, she put together a PowerPoint presentation to show elementary school children that they can make a difference without a lot of effort. “I feel really good inside every time I finish a volunteer project,” Caitlin said. “I want other kids to feel that same way.”
“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 New Hampshire's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.