DENVER, Colo., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Hannah Mitchell, 18, of Colorado Springs and Amaya Garcia-White Buffalo, 13, of Antonito today were named Colorado’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, Hannah and Amaya 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 Colorado’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Hannah Mitchell
Nominated by Pine Creek High School
Hannah, a senior at Pine Creek High School, helped start a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping teens who are dealing with suicidal feelings, and raised more than $4,000 for that cause by organizing two citywide art shows to focus public attention on teen mental health and suicide prevention. In September of 2016, Hannah’s world changed when her best friend committed suicide. “In my life, I had never experienced such pain,” she said. “While grieving, I turned to art as an outlet for all of the pain, confusion and tumultuous emotions I felt.” She also joined with several peers at her school to form an organization called “Project Reasons” to “remind suicidal people and people dealing with mental disorders of the things and people that are worth staying alive for,” she said.
Hannah wanted to raise money to support Project Reasons, and because of her interest in art, decided to organize a citywide art gallery event. For two years in a row, she sought support from students, teachers and businesses, recruited volunteers and student artists to participate, and promoted the events via social and news media. Through the sale of tickets to the public and the auction of donated artworks, Hannah’s shows raised more than $4,000 to help Project Reasons create a mobile app and a video series, expand regionally, and purchase art supplies for a local mental health center. Hannah also wrote a manual detailing the organizational process involved in her art fundraiser so that it can continue after she graduates.
Middle Level State Honoree: Amaya Garcia-White Buffalo
Nominated by Centauri Middle School
Amaya, an eighth-grader at Centauri Middle School, launched her “Wolf Pack Unity Project” to encourage students to respect and value themselves, others, their elders and the environment. Since she was a little girl, Amaya has helped her older siblings with volunteer projects that have collected everything from school supplies to hygiene kits to sports equipment for children in need. But when she was in fifth grade, she decided to start her own volunteer initiative after seeing “so-called friends” bully a classmate. “When I defended the classmate, they started to bully me,” said Amaya.
Rather than stay silent, Amaya arranged to deliver a presentation to her class about character and bullying. It was such a success, she was allowed to address the entire school. She then began speaking at clubs, organizations and other schools, while distributing bags that promote good character decisions, containing bracelets, pencils, bookmarks, pins, activity books and a pledge certificate to stand up against bullying. Amaya also has conveyed her message by sponsoring a high school basketball game and hosting a unity dance for middle level students. In addition, she encourages friends and family members to help keep clean a mile-long stretch of highway that her Wolf Pack Unity Project has adopted, and to volunteer at senior centers. “Our actions today can affect generations to come,” said Amaya. “If we can show respect and value others, it will solve many problems in society that we face.”
The program judges also recognized four other Colorado students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Colorado’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Evelyn Bodoni, 16, of Englewood, Colo., a junior at Cherry Creek High School, established and raised $13,000 for Global Outreach FBLA, which empowers young people in emerging nations to learn business skills through Future Business Leaders of America. Working remotely, she implemented nine FBLA chapters in Hungary and Tanzania, traveled to Budapest to lead the inaugural Hungarian FBLA Winter Leadership Conference, and led a five-day leadership conference in Dar es Salaam.
Esperanza Garcia, 17, of Denver, Colo., a senior at South High School, helps fellow students learn to grow, harvest and enjoy fresh food through the Environmental Justice Warriors collective, which also provides food for the school’s food bank. With no prior gardening experience, but with the help of a grant and the advice of her biology teacher, she and the collective bought soil, solicited seeds and cuttings, and planted and reaped in her school’s greenhouse, which has become a sanctuary for stressed students.
Savannah Parrot, 17, of Niwot, Colo., a senior at Niwot High School, was inspired by her service with her school’s student council to provide essential leadership and grantmaking service for other groups, including her school’s education foundation and the nonprofit 15 Forever Fund | Community Foundation Boulder County. She is also a member of the student advisory council for her U.S. representative, acting as a student communications liaison.
Morgan Scherrer, 17, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., a senior at Mountain Vista High School, helps save lives and find missing people as a lieutenant and trainer for Colorado’s Arapahoe Rescue Patrol, a high school–based search and rescue team. Trained to perform rescues in numerous terrains including mountains, fires and avalanches, she has more than 2,300 hours of accumulated community service and is on call 24/7 with 911, working directly with local police officers, firefighters and victims’ families.
“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.