Rhode Island’s Top Youth Volunteers Of 2019 Selected By National Program

Rhode Island’s Top Youth Volunteers Of 2019 Selected By National Program

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Kierra Giarrusso, 17, of Exeter and Emily Raimondi, 10, of Cumberland today were named Rhode Island’s top two youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Kierra and Emily each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2019. 

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 24th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Rhode Island’s top youth volunteers of 2019:

High School State Honoree: Kierra Giarrusso

Nominated by Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School

Kierra, a senior at Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School, worked with a classmate to develop a weeklong summer educational program that enabled 30 elementary school students to learn basic science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) concepts by conducting fun experiments. Kierra struggled with math when she was in elementary school, and recognized that she needed to work on her skills during the summer as well as during the school year. “I was always assigned summer reading projects, but never math,” she said. “Students need to engage in programs during the summer to support the retention of math and science information, as well as reading.”

So in March 2018, Kierra set out to address that issue by starting the first STEAM summer program in the ExeterWest Greenwich area. With the help of her classmate, she researched similar programs in other places, drafted a curriculum, and tested experiments to use in her program. Within one week of distributing registration forms, 30 kids in second to fourth grade had signed up, filling all of the available slots. Once the program began last August, high school students and a teacher recruited by Kierra helped supervise hands-on activities that employed things such as sugar crystals, lava lamps, salt painting, an egg drop and a car engineering challenge to teach the young attendees STEAM concepts. It was truly rewarding, said Kierra, “to see their eyes light up with delight when they understood the concepts.” She plans to offer two sessions of her program next year, along with a nighttime session for older students, and already has a waiting list of interested participants.           

Middle Level State Honoree: Emily Raimondi

Nominated by Garvin Memorial School

Emily, a fifth-grader at Garvin Memorial School, collects gifts for kids from low-income families and for homeless pets in an animal shelter, and has raised nearly $10,000 over the past four years for people with spinal cord injuries. At Christmastime, instead of exchanging gifts with family and friends, Emily hosts a party for the Toys for Tots program, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them Christmas presents. And then, on her birthday, she throws another party and asks friends to bring donations of pet food and pet toys, instead of gifts for her. “I bring all of the donations to the animal shelter, which is always so much fun because I love going to see all the dogs and cats and knowing that they will be happier,” said Emily.

But Emily’s biggest project is raising money for the Travis Roy Foundation, established by a Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed from the neck down 11 seconds into his first game. “I was in an accident and my neck hurt and I was scared I was going to be like Travis,” she said. “Everything was OK, but I wanted to be sure that people who had spinal cord injuries would get the help they needed.”  To raise funds, Emily sells cakes that she bakes from scratch and decorates. She also hosts skating events and “board-breaking” karate parties, and publicizes these activities by speaking to classes at her school and making Facebook videos explaining spinal cord injuries. “Through community service I learned that I can do many kind things, and that it means a lot to other people, and that makes me happy,” said Emily.          

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other Rhode Island students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Rhode Island’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:

Olivia Barboza, 17, of Cumberland, R.I., a senior at Cumberland High School, recruited volunteers to help her create and send 62 menstrual hygiene care kits for female students attending school in rural Northern Ghana. Olivia also raised money for a health care educator to teach the recipients about menstrual health, and hopes the care kits empower girls to continue attending school and complete their education.

Connor Enestvedt, 14, of Cumberland, R.I., a freshman at Cumberland High School, has spent hundreds of volunteer hours planting, tending and harvesting crops for the Historic Metcalf Franklin Farm, a town-owned farm that provides organic vegetables for those experiencing food insecurity. Along with general farm work, Connor has also educated others about the project, which donates an average of 40,000 pounds of food each year.

“These young volunteers learned and demonstrated that they can make meaningful contributions to individuals and communities through their service,” said Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey. “It’s an honor to recognize their great work, and we hope that shining a spotlight on their service inspires others to consider how they might make a difference.”

“Each of these honorees is proof that students have the energy, creativity and unique perspectives to create positive change,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “We commend each of the 2019 honorees for their outstanding volunteer service, and for the invaluable example they’ve set for their peers.”

About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth. 

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2019. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.  

Since the program began in 1995, more than 125,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China and Brazil. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at 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.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media

SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.

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