WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Georgia's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Devneet Singh, 17, of Duluth and Damācia Howard, 13, of Union City, 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. Devneet and Damācia – 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 Devneet and Damācia Georgia'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.
Devneet, a junior at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology in Lawrenceville, served as a mentor, teacher and friend to young refugees from Bhutan while working as a lead volunteer coordinator in Atlanta for SEWA, an international humanitarian organization. She became involved after meeting one of SEWA’s Atlanta chapter chairmen and learning of the need for young adult volunteers. “Half of all refugees are children subject to war, religious persecution and famine,” said Devneet. “I couldn’t help but be motivated by such adversity.”
During the summer months, Devneet taught classes on math, science and English to Bhutanese students ranging from 5 to 17 years old. She also planned fun games, brought books and snacks, advised on personal hygiene, and provided information on public transportation. After one of her students expressed astonishment at being given a pencil to keep, Devneet organized a car wash that raised $300 for school supplies. She also served as vice president of a 5K run that raised $7,000 for SEWA’s animal rights campaign. Devneet compiled photographs and video footage from her refugee experience into a promotional video to recruit additional volunteers. “I am passionate about this relief effort,” said Devneet, “because it is a way that I can directly aid the children of refugees, immigrants and other hard-pressed members of the international community.”
Damācia, a seventh-grader at Georgia Cyber Academy, has collected thousands of books in her community for students in Africa, working with a national charity called Books for Africa. Damācia was looking for a community service project to take on in conjunction with her membership in the National Junior Beta Club and her title of National American Miss 2015-2016 Miss Georgia Pre-Teen Spokesmodel. She researched possible projects with her mother, and upon learning that books are desperately needed in Africa, she knew she’d found her mission. “Education is important,” she said, “and when help can be given to children in other countries, I feel those of us that can help should.”
Damācia started by packing up books out of her own collection, and then asked friends and family members for help. She spoke to middle school students about her effort, obtained some publicity on a radio program and set up a collection drive at her church. All of the books she collected were turned over to Books for Africa to be shipped overseas. In addition to providing a valuable educational resource to African kids, Damācia’s project has helped emphasize “what a privilege it is to have access to books via libraries, schools, electronic devices and bookstores,” she said. “Knowing that helps me not take books for granted.”
“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 Georgia's honorees at the 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.