INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Tatum Parker, 18, of Indianapolis and Adrian Huizar, 14, of Michigan City today were named Indiana’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, Tatum and Adrian 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 Indiana’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Tatum Parker
Nominated by North Central High School
Tatum, a senior at North Central High School, has delivered more than 3,500 backpacks, each stuffed with about $350 worth of fun items, to every child in Indiana diagnosed with cancer since she and her family began the “Tatum Parker Project” in 2008. When Tatum was almost 6 years old, she learned she had Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer, in her right femur. After undergoing surgery and a year of chemotherapy, Tatum thought she was cured. But a year later, her disease was back and she once again needed treatment. During her hospitalizations, it saddened her to see so many young patients far away from family and friends and without much to do. “I always felt so terrible that I would share my things,” Tatum said.
After she was well again, Tatum and her family wanted to give back to the pediatric cancer community. They established a website, got the word out around the state and started raising money to purchase fun items to fill backpacks. They then reached out to schools, businesses and clubs to host toy drives and fundraisers. Every month, Tatum gets a list of the age and gender of every child in Indiana who has been recently diagnosed with cancer. She and her family then go shopping for age-appropriate games, toys, craft kits and electronics, which are then packed into backpacks. She then delivers her “bags of fun” to hospitals for nurses to distribute. “My hope with every bag is that the child is able to laugh, smile and get more hope,” said Tatum. So far, the Tatum Parker Project, which also raises funds for pediatric cancer research, has donated well over $1 million worth of treats to brighten the lives of cancer patients in her state.
Middle Level State Honoree: Adrian Huizar
Nominated by Queen of All Saints School
Adrian, an eighth-grader at Queen of All Saints School, started a tutoring program at his school that recruits members of the National Junior Honor Society to offer assistance to fellow students who are having difficulty with their homework. When he was younger, Adrian received help at an after-school homework program run by two teachers. “It really helped me a lot and made a difference in my grades,” said Adrian. “I realized there was a need to help more students.” Having volunteered as a tutor himself, Adrian knew the power of an individual to be an instrument for change in a student’s education.
He decided his program would host tutoring sessions for kids in first through sixth grade for 45 minutes, four days a week. After getting approval to start his program, Adrian created forms for parents to give their permission for their students to stay after school. He then asked NJHS members to serve as tutors, and found adults willing to be present during tutoring sessions. Adrian is responsible for all scheduling and keeping track of attendance. He also provides worksheets for the tutors to use in their lessons. He has found that each student is different; some need help completing their homework, while others need to be drilled on certain skills. As Adrian sees it, everyone benefits from the program: the students get the help they need to boost grades and master skills, the tutors refresh skills they don’t use every day, and parents don’t have to spend as much time helping their children at home. Adrian estimates that since he started in late 2017, 62 students, tutors and supervisors have been involved in his program.
The program judges also recognized six other Indiana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Indiana’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Isabella Errington, 15, of Huntertown, Ind., nominated by Parkview Family YMCA and a freshman at Carroll High School, teaches leadership, encourages volunteerism and leads peers through her role as president of the YMCA Teen Leaders Club and her participation in the Make Opportunity for Volunteerism and Education teen summer series. She has supported more than 30 groups, raised money for YMCA memberships, and helped kids learn confidence, build self-esteem and create friendships.
Sylvia Flowers, 18, of Gary, Ind., a senior at Calumet New Tech High School, has gathered and distributed clothing, food, school supplies, baby items and other donations for people in need through Peaceful Hands Outreach, a nonprofit created by her mother and a friend. As a way to deal with her grief over the loss of a beloved uncle, Sylvia channeled the joy she had felt in his life to get involved in this volunteer effort and make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Armaan Goel, 17, of Carmel, Ind., a senior at Carmel High School, was inspired by his participation in a collaborative computer programming event to found “Code for Change,” a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that rallies high school tech talent to create custom digital solutions for nonprofits and government organizations, and to teach children about computer science. So far, they have delivered a complaint form, a school hall pass app and website, and a prize-winning volunteer management system.
Jordan Hodge, 17, of Attica, Ind., a junior at Attica High School, has volunteered for four summers as a counselor with Joy Camp, a three-day weekend experience for children with special needs. Inspired by his older brother, who is legally blind, Jordan helps campers get dressed, shower, eat, brush their teeth, swim, dance, fish, ride horses, play games, do crafts and fall asleep, and has recruited friends to join him in helping these children thrive and grow.
Sydney Spencer, 16, of Crawfordsville, Ind., a junior at Crawfordsville Senior High School, has been dedicated since the summer of 2018 to her “Positivity Project,” an initiative that posts vinyl decals with positive images and quotes on school bathroom stall doors to help students who are dealing with bullying and other challenges. Her GoFundMe, T-shirt sales and social media outreach have quickly attracted interest from local schools in bringing her project to life.
Jonathan Tofaute, 17, of Carmel, Ind., a senior at Carmel High School, has spent the past decade coaching children with special needs through the Indy Twisters, the nonprofit hockey team his father founded.
He works with children from age 5 to 17 to help them be part of a team that not only practices and plays locally, but also participates in out-of-state tournaments, giving many of the players their first chance to win a medal.
“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.