Friday, April 20, 2012

Inspiring and Recognizing Young Volunteers


Did you know it’s National Volunteer Week? It falls this year on April 15-21 and recognizes the good in people and promotes the spirit of youth volunteerism. Volunteering is good stuff! Recent statistics and programs show that kids who get involved in volunteer projects do better in school and are more able to resist substance abuse than those who don’t. Statistically, 90% of today’s teens who volunteer are happy and feel good about themselves.
Every September, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards conducts a nationwide search to find extraordinary examples of youth volunteer service with participating organizations (i.e. Girl Scouts of America, American Red Cross, YMCA, 4-H). In February, two young people are selected from every state as the top volunteers in their state.  These state honorees each receive $1,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC in May to receive national recognition for their service. At the annual event, America’s top 10 youth volunteers are named.  Each national honoree receives a gold medallion, $5000, a crystal bowl to be displayed in their school, and another $5000 for the charity of their choice.

Here are examples of this year’s 102 celebrated teen volunteers of 2012:

  • Jennifer Wright, 18, of Nashua, N.H., co-founded an organization that raised awareness of domestic abuse and bullying through brochures, self-defense seminars and speaking engagements.
  • Stephanie Jennis, 16, of Montville, N.J., worked with her family to raise more than $500,000 to fund programs that promote the inclusion of children with disabilities.
  • Iko’tsimiskimaki ("Ekoo") Beck, 16, of Missoula, Mont., developed a program to prevent bullying and reduce prejudice among students at high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.
  • Emma Rider, 14, of Bridgeville, Del, collected nearly 40,000 pairs of used shoes in order to buy water purification systems in developing countries.
  • Catherine Mitchell, 16, of Oceanside, Calif., created a business called "Beauty 4 Life" that enables women in Uganda to earn a living and educate their children by
    selling their handmade paper-bead jewelry in the U.S.
  • Neha Gupta, 15, of Yardley, Pa., founded an organization that has raised more than $375,000 to provide schooling and other educational resources to disadvantaged children in India and the United States.
  • Christina Bear, 14, of Golden, Colo, launched a campaign to educate people about the danger of radon and encourage them to test for the odorless gas in their homes.
  • Jonathan Crider, 18, of Marlow, Okla., organized rocking-chair marathons in his community that raised more than $45,000 to feed children who otherwise risk going hungry on weekends.
  • Jesse Sheldon, 17, of Spokane Valley, Wash., started a “diaper bank” that distributed more than 35,000 diapers to families who are struggling economically.
  • Jordyn Schara, 17, of North Freedom, Wis., created a nonprofit organization that collects and disposes of unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals so that they do not end up in the water supply, while raising awareness of prescription drug abuse.
  • Jonny Cohen, 16, of Highland Park, Ill, invented an aerodynamic shield that fits on the front of school buses to reduce wind drag, substantially improving gas mileage and reducing pollution.

So, what great things are the young people in your classroom or home doing???  Allow them to celebrate and be recognized for the great work that they are doing by participating in these awards. To learn more visit http://spirit.prudential.com or call 973-802-4568. 

To download or order a free copy of Prudential’s “Catch the Spirit: A Student’s Guide to Community Service,” visit http://publications.usa.gov/USAPubs.php?PubID=5483

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