WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Skylar Thomas, 17 and Feven Tadele, 12, today were named the District of Columbia’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, Skylar and Feven each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an invitation to join the top two honorees from all 50 U.S. states in early May for four days of national recognition events in Washington, D.C. 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 the District of Columbia’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Skylar Thomas
Nominated by Ballou Senior High School
Skylar, a senior at Ballou Senior High School, worked as a summer youth camp counselor and tutor to help children from low-income neighborhoods gain skills that will help them become more successful in school and in life. As a young child, Skylar was invited to participate in Reaching New Heights, a program sponsored by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. “My mentor helped change my life by being there for me when I wasn’t focused on school, giving me someone to talk to about adolescent issues other than my mother, and continuously preaching that education is power,” said Skylar.
Three years ago, Skylar was invited by the police department to come back to the program as a summer camp counselor. Growing up, she saw a lot of kids who were always playing video games, who didn’t want to go to school, and who had difficulty completing their homework. “I wanted to change their way of thinking,” she said. Her first job as a volunteer was to help the program director conduct an orientation session for parents to explain the program’s mission and goals and to get permission for the children to participate. Then, on Saturdays and weekday evenings, Skylar helped young students improve their reading skills, taught them to express themselves through writing, bolstered their vocabulary and math skills, and showed them how much fun science can be. She also assisted them with community service projects and accompanied the group on field trips. “I wanted these kids to know and believe there is hope for a positive future, and that I am here to help them achieve their dreams,” said Skylar.
Middle Level State Honoree: Feven Tadele
Nominated by St. Augustine Catholic School
Feven, a seventh-grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, is a dedicated volunteer who gives back to her community and beyond in many ways, including packing food for people in need, teaching Sunday school at her church, and traveling to Ethiopia to aid people living in poverty and teach English. Feven said her older sister is her primary inspiration for serving others. “Ever since I was little I have looked up to my sister because I always saw her helping others in some way,” said Feven. She soon discovered that volunteering was its own reward. “It gives me a happy feeling inside,” she said.
When she was about 7 years old, Feven started following in her sister’s footsteps by selling chocolates at her church to raise money for her school. Then she offered to help struggling students with their homework, and assisted teachers in sprucing up their classrooms. Gradually, she increased her commitment to helping others and began teaching the Bible to children at her church, distributing holiday cards at a senior citizens home, and packing food to give to the poor in her community. Last summer, Feven, her sister and a friend traveled to Ethiopia to feed people in need and teach English to children there. “Teaching children who are eager to learn always gives me an overflow of joy,” said Feven. “Every time I teach a student, I believe that I am helping prepare that child for the real world and helping them to become great citizens and a great asset to their community.”
The program judges also recognized two other District of Columbia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are the District of Columbia’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Anjali Bose, 16, a junior at Georgetown Day School, founded and runs the D.C. chapter of Toybank, an organization devoted to improving children’s cognitive function through play; she began volunteering at the foundation at its home base in her native city of Mumbai. In Washington, she collected nearly 100 toys in three months to send to India, staying in constant contact with the central office and mastering the logistics of collecting, storing, quality-checking and shipping the donations.
Lukas Leijon, 18, a senior at School Without Walls High School, created and maintained trails on both the Appalachian Trail and auxiliary trails in the Northeast with the Appalachian Mountain Club for three summers. He cleared fallen trees, built bog bridges and lodged rocks in the trail to combat erosion, guiding less experienced club members and becoming certified in Wilderness First Aid; his work will help maintain the beauty and accessibility of the trail for another hundred years.
“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.