America’s Largest Young Volunteers Program Is Full Of Stories Of Humanity

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Now in its 22nd year, it honours students in grades 5-12, who have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad. These are youth volunteers who have worked on a variety of initiatives to make positive change—from taking over charitable programs ensuring that people in need could continue to be provided with essential services, to leading projects to help children with cancer and other illnesses, or working to combat bullying and promoting inclusiveness in their schools. A few even created programs for children with disabilities or worked to provide food to peers in need who go without subsidised school meals over the weekend. Whatever they were doing, they were all volunteering to make a difference.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is run by Prudential Financial, in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. This year saw a 102 youth volunteers—two from each state and the District of Columbia, named State Honorees. Each will be awarded a $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C. for a four-day recognition event. During the trip, 10 of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017.

In addition to the State Honorees, the program’s judges recognised 234 students as ‘Distinguished Finalists’ for their impressive community service activities, and each will receive an engraved bronze medallion. More than 500 other applicants were awarded ‘Certificates of Excellence’ for their volunteer work. Many of this year’s State Honorees and ‘Distinguished Finalists’ were acknowledged for promoting a love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to their peers.

The volunteer stories from the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are all heart-warming—all these youths have been motivated by human spirit. Take James Lea, 17, from Las Vegas, Nev., a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School. He helped brighten the holiday season for children who had recently lost a parent by surprising their families with an anonymous gift each day for 12 days, tied to the theme of the song "12 Days of Christmas." Or the story of Maria Keller, 15, of Plymouth, Minn., a sophomore at Orono High School who founded a charity, Read Indeed, when she was only 8! Since then Maria has collected more than 1.7 million books for children in need in 50 states and 17 other countries. An avid reader who couldn't imagine going to sleep at night without a bedtime story, Maria asked her mother why some of her classmates didn't read much and was told that perhaps it was because their parents couldn't afford to buy them books. 

All these narratives show how volunteering can help develop new skills, expand horizons and make a big difference to a community or someone in need. Each young person’s account is an inspiration to others.

Photo Credit: The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards