WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--North Dakota's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Lauryn Hinckley, 16, of Bismarck and Evan Knoll, 11, of Fargo, 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. Lauryn and Evan – 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 Lauryn and Evan North Dakota'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.
Lauryn, a sophomore at Century High School, has collected more than 7,600 pounds of peanut butter and jelly over the past five years to help feed 500 children in her area who don’t have enough to eat on weekends. Lauryn will never forget a scene she witnessed in the grocery store when she was 9 years old. “There was a family in front of me with a grocery cart half full of food, most of which had to be put back on the shelves because their mom didn’t have enough money to pay for it,” she said. “I could not believe that kids my own age were going hungry.” Lauryn decided to hold a food drive to help.
Since then, Lauryn’s peanut butter and jelly drive has become an annual event in her community. This past year, 20 local schools, eight businesses and five bank branches participated. To prepare for her drive, Lauryn spoke to school principals and businesses, shared a blog she wrote on hunger, and sought interviews with the media. She then designed posters, fliers and T-shirts, and alerted store managers so they could stock enough peanut butter and jelly. Next, Lauryn and about 20 volunteers distributed collection boxes and advertising materials. She then held a party where businesses made donations and organizations helped sort the food, which the United Way then used to help fill backpacks sent home with kids in need for the weekend. “It only takes $5 to feed a hungry child on the weekend, and I have been able to help feed over 500 kids for 10 weeks in the last five years,” Lauryn said. “My goal is to feed these kids the entire school year!”
Evan, a member of the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties and a fifth-grader at Park Christian School, has been volunteering since he was 3 years old at a local homeless center. Evan comes from a family of volunteers. “My inspiration is my mom because when she was younger she served our community and wanted me to have the same understanding of how good it is to help others so I can appreciate all my blessings,” he said.
Once a month during the school year, Evan works at a homeless shelter in a variety of capacities. He helps prepare and serve meals, stocks shelves and organizes the pantry, plays games and reads stories to young children there, and sorts and hangs clothes donated for the shelter’s Dress for Success program. He also has packed bags containing warm socks, gloves and toiletries to hand out to residents, and has shopped for and delivered Christmas presents to them. In addition, Evan has helped his family raise funds to provide housing for the homeless in Fargo, volunteered at a summer church camp on an Indian reservation, and participated in the planting and maintenance of two community gardens to promote healthy eating.
“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 North Dakota's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.