CARSON CITY, Nev., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Peyton Barsel, 16 and Jackson Bentham, 11, both of Las Vegas, today were named Nevada’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, Peyton and Jackson 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 Nevada’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Peyton Barsel
Nominated by The Meadows School
Peyton, a junior at The Meadows School, helps children who have been traumatized by the death of a parent or sibling to express their feelings and learn coping skills, through her work at a grief counseling center in Las Vegas. Sadly, Peyton can relate to what these children are going through because she lost her own father to a heart attack when she was 9. “My mom knew that I needed more support than what I was receiving at school, so she enrolled me in a peer grief support group,” said Peyton. “That group changed my life.” For two years, Peyton and her brother participated in peer group counseling at Adam’s Place, “the one place where I felt safe,” she said. Four years ago, Peyton wanted to give back to the place that had helped her, so she approached the founder of the center to see if she could be a group facilitator.
After training, Peyton became the first teenage facilitator at Adam’s Place, meeting every other week with children 5-8 years old to do fun activities that helped them understand their loss, its impact on their families, and ways they can begin to put their lives back together. The work is hard, she said, and often makes her relive the pain of her father’s death, but it is “incredibly rewarding.” When a lack of funds threatened to close the center, Peyton testified at the state capital in support of a bill that would provide additional funding to keep Adam’s Place open and allow it to serve more children and families. Currently, she is lead facilitator for a group of children ages 9 to 12, and is also working to pass a bill in Nevada that would require trauma training to help teachers support students in crisis.
Middle Level State Honoree: Jackson Bentham
Nominated by Somerset Academy Lone Mountain
Jackson, a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy Lone Mountain, conducted a food and toiletry drive at his school to benefit service members returning from combat, and then held a raffle that raised funds to buy toilet paper for veterans in need. With Nellis Air Force Base near his hometown, Jackson said he is accustomed to seeing veterans in his community. But an encounter last August with one vet really made him sad. He was standing in 115-degree heat outside a gas station when Jackson offered him bottled water and a wet wash cloth. “He was very kind,” said Jackson. “He told me he had a kid and a family but lost everything once he returned from Afghanistan.” Jackson knew he wanted to help, not only this man, but others, too. “I hurt to think about veterans losing their dignity to beg when they’ve risked their life for our freedom,” he said.
Jackson contacted a local American Legion post to find out what items veterans needed most. He then got his principal’s permission to run a five-day food and toiletry drive at his school, as well as a fundraising raffle at an annual Halloween party. Then he recruited volunteers to help him make signs and figure out the details, and used his own allowance to pay for fliers to send home with students. Jackson also made a video and posted it on Facebook. His food and toiletry drive collected 358 items, while the raffle raised $800, which he used to buy 2,000 rolls of toilet paper, the item the American Legion advised was most in demand. The items were donated to local organizations that help veterans in crisis and provide housing for those receiving medical treatment. “My efforts are a drop in the sea of what needs to be done to help our local veterans,” said Jackson. “There are hundreds and hundreds in need of basic help and supplies.”
The program judges also recognized four other Nevada students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Nevada’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Yatziri Michicich-Ochoa, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a senior at Desert Oasis High School, has volunteered more than 500 hours with the Boys and Girls Club of America, in addition to serving with a variety of school groups and community organizations. Her work with the club has ranged from planning activities to chaperoning field trips; she hopes her volunteering will inspire the kids to give back to their communities in the future.
Nicholas Oliveri, 16, of Las Vegas, Nev., nominated by the YMCA of Southern Nevada and a junior at The Meadows School, worked with his sister to form “Komfort 4 Kids,” a nonprofit group that has hand-crafted more than 400 blankets for children undergoing chemotherapy. The group partnered with local National Honor Societies and National Junior Honor Societies to increase production of the blankets, which bring physical and psychological comfort to recipients.
Sydney Ramenofsky, 18, of Las Vegas, Nev., a member of Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada and a senior at The Meadows School, raised $20,000 to help police officers and the community recognize each other’s good works as part of an initiative she created, called “The Good Ticket.” She teamed up with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation and solicited business partners to collect donations for the “tickets,” redeemable for items ranging from free sandwiches to casino staycations.
Eshaan Vakil, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a junior at Ed W. Clark High School, launched “The Alliance for Academic Quiz Bowl (AAQB),” an initiative that hosts coaching and competition events for elementary and middle schoolers where they answer challenging questions on a variety of subjects. Eshaan’s program, which aims to promote academic engagement and high school preparation, has reached more than 400 participants so far.
“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.
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.