District of Columbia's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 17th Annual National Awards Program
Washington students earn $1,000 awards and engraved medallions
WASHINGTON, Feb 07, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Tai Schroeder, 17, and Gelatia Araia, 14, today were named the District of Columbia's top two youth volunteers for 2012 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Tai was nominated by School Without Walls Senior High School, and Gelatia was nominated by St. Augustine Catholic School. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 17th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Tai, a senior at Schools Without Walls Senior High School, helps repair and build hiking trails in the national forests near Washington, and spent three weeks during each of the past two summers working on similar projects in Idaho and Arizona. Tai says that she has always had a passion for protecting the environment, so when she heard a representative of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) speak in her history class about outdoor trail building, "I was automatically hooked -- I had to apply."
Tai soon became a member of the SCA's Conservation Leadership Corps, working with other members every month on trails in nearby national forests. The following summer, she traveled to the Clearwater National Forest in northern Idaho to help rebuild three waterfall observation decks and replace trail signs. Last summer, she worked in Grand Canyon National Park, trimming large bushes on the sides of roads and trails to make them safer for drivers and hikers. Projects like these are "a lot of work," said Tai, particularly because her crews use only nonelectric tools and often have to carry all of their equipment many miles to their worksites. Tai has also helped recruit new crew members, and is currently working as an intern in SCA's Washington office.
Gelatia, an eighth-grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, volunteers several times a week at The Sitar Arts Center, which provides after-school, weekend, and summer classes in the arts for more than 700 students each year. Gelatia initially became involved in the center in 2006 when her father introduced her to the program. After taking several classes, she heard about Sitar's Emerging Arts Leaders program, which encourages participants to take a leadership role in the organization and become more involved in the arts. Now a volunteer at the center, Gelatia said, "it is great for me. I am working with people who are incredibly talented and have unique gifts. Not only that, thanks to my dad, I am finding opportunities to encourage kids to use their talents."
As a volunteer at the center, Gelatia works as a lobby assistant, signing students into the facility and assisting staff members with parties and various art projects. She also acts as a mentor to the younger students, offering encouragement when they are discouraged over a piece of art that isn't turning out the way they envisioned, and providing hands-on help when necessary. In addition, Gelatia counsels them on everyday life situations. "It is my job to be a good role model and leader to the students," Gelatia said. "I love to help them with their homework and projects. Kids are looking up to me. That is something that makes me happy every day."
As State Honorees, Tai and Gelatia each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an invitation to the program's recognition events in early May in Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the 50 states for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2012 at that time.
In addition, the program judges recognized two other District of Columbia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:
Donae Owens, 17, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, conducted important scientific research as a volunteer summer intern with the School of Engineering at Catholic University. During her summer program, Donae conducted research on the exoskeleton of a crab and compared it to human bone tissue to identify similarities that could assist osteoporosis researchers.
Dionna Stanton, 17, a senior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, is an active member of the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Program and has participated in many of its service projects, including helping a local soup kitchen and building a home with Habitat for Humanity. Dionna is also the president of the Black Women's Society at her school, where she implements various awareness events and helps administer a scholarship for incoming students of color.
"Through their selfless acts of service, these award recipients have greatly improved the lives of others," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope their stories and their dedication inspire other young people to do the same."
"We are so pleased to celebrate these student volunteers," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "It's important to highlight them as powerful examples of how young people can make a difference."
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 HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. More than 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, creativity, 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, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them -- five middle level and five high school students -- will be named National Honorees on May 7. These 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 100,000 young volunteers nationwide have been honored by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards at the local, state or national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India. 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 on behalf of President Barack Obama.
For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit .
NASSP is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org .
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. PRU +0.77% , 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, investment management, and real estate services. 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 http://www.news.prudential.com/ .
Editors: Graphics depicting the award program's logo and medallions may be downloaded from spirit.prudential.com.
SOURCE: Prudential Financial