LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Anna Claire Hay, 15, of Springdale and Taci Humphries, 11, of Ash Flat today were named Arkansas’ 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, Anna Claire and Taci 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 Arkansas’ top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Anna Claire Hay
Nominated by Shiloh Christian School
Anna Claire, a sophomore at Shiloh Christian School, started “Teens with Integrity,” a campaign in her state to help young people find volunteer opportunities they are passionate about, and that can help them cultivate character-building qualities to make it easier to weather their own challenges. It all started when she was 11. Anna Claire’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease and was being cared for in a nursing home. “Watching my grandmother’s memory start to wane was both heartbreaking and compelling,” said Anna Claire.
“It became my mission to learn all I could from her life story.” As she spent more time with her grandmother, she realized there were many other Alzheimer’s patients who rarely had visitors and whose stories would soon be lost.
Anna Claire secured a sponsorship from a local business to provide cookies and milkshakes each week at the nursing home, and invited friends to join her in visiting the residents. But she was quickly disappointed that most of her friends did not share her enthusiasm. She realized that her passion was not everyone’s, and that she needed to help her peers find theirs by exposing them to different volunteer opportunities. To do that, Anna Claire speaks to groups about her campaign to get teens involved in their communities, and has a website where she encourages her peers to participate in projects such as conducting book drives, writing letters to servicemen and women, ringing Salvation Army red-kettle bells during the holidays, and serving as Santa’s elves. She estimates that, over the years, she has helped 8,000 students find meaningful ways to help others.
Middle Level State Honoree: Taci Humphries
Nominated by Highland Middle School
Taci, a sixth-grader at Highland Middle School, has spent many hours tutoring a visually impaired student in her class, and in the process has helped him improve his grades dramatically. An enthusiastic volunteer, Taci had served her community in a variety of capacities over the years, helping at a special needs rodeo, tutoring students, making lap blankets for local veterans and helping teachers get their classrooms ready for the start of a new school year. But she wasn’t prepared for how her math teacher’s request last August to help the new kid in school “would change my whole life!”
It turned out the new kid was a boy who has significant visual impairment. First, Taci had to learn to read and write in Braille. She also had to come up with ways to turn visual concepts such as grids and tables into something that didn’t require sight. “After racking my brain, I came up with the idea of using Play-Doh,” said Taci. “Now he figures his ratios just like the rest of us.” While her new friend has thrived under her tutoring, Taci insists she is the one who has learned the most as she’s watched him refuse to be defined by his disability. The experience has made her think about a future career working with children who have disabilities. “I have gotten so much more than I’ve given,” she said. “I have learned that I have no right to complain and that sometimes to really see something, you don’t look with your eyes.”
The program judges also recognized four other Arkansas students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Arkansas’ Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Olivia Battles, 18, of Ozark, Ark., a senior at Alma High School, started a food pantry for her fellow students called “Food for Friends,” working with friends, teachers and the community to raise $2,000 in food donations in the organization’s first year. Sensitive to the importance of self-esteem in fellow biracial teenagers, she also started “Be-Utiful,” which provides ethnic hair-care products and beauty advice for transracial foster families; she worked two jobs over the summer to purchase products for donation.
Lane Bogle, 18, of Valley Springs, Ark., a senior at Valley Springs High School, started a mentoring program called “Tiger Encouragers” to meet weekly with more than 100 at-risk elementary students, tutoring and working on social skills; the program has grown to 30 mentors and 30 “Tiny Tigers,” and teachers have reported an improvement in grades, self-confidence and social skills among the students in the program. She also volunteers in her school food pantry.
Thomas Hollis, 18, of Hot Springs, Ark., a senior at Lakeside High School, volunteers for Our Promise Cancer Services, which helps cancer patients in 21 counties with utilities, gas and other expenses, after witnessing the obstacles faced by his immigrant mother as she negotiated cancer care for his grandfather. He worked on a grant to help raise $27,000 to house eight cancer patients during their treatment; he also tutors ESL learners, volunteers at the hospital and for events, and heads food and clothing drives.
Gracie Kimbrell, 18, of Alexander, Ark., a senior at Bryant High School, designed and 3D-printed a prosthetic hand for a fellow student—a device that allowed the student to pick up a drink, hold an umbrella and engage in other activities with her peers. Galvanized by the death of a friend with a congenital heart defect, Gracie and six other students also raised more than $150,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“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
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