HELENA, Mont., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Kyla Johnston, 17, of Columbia Falls and Karlee Albertson, 12, of Billings today were named Montana’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, Kyla and Karlee 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 Montana’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Kyla Johnston
Nominated by Columbia Falls High School
Kyla, a senior at Columbia Falls High School, started a bilingual story hour and homework help sessions for Spanish-speaking students at her school. At the beginning of the school year, Kyla became aware of a new student who spoke only Spanish. “He was lost and unable to communicate with any of the teachers or students because he did not speak English,” she said. After discovering that other students in her school district were struggling with the same problem, Kyla hatched a plan to assist students who speak little or no English and create a safe space for them “so that they feel welcome and supported.”
She outlined a curriculum for her proposed reading and homework program, then recruited her school’s Spanish teacher to mentor her and help map out a plan of action. Next, Kyla reached out to teachers throughout her district and hung posters in schools and local businesses to find kids who might be interested in her program. Now, she gathers Spanish-speaking students at a local library twice a month and reads a book to them, coordinates an activity that goes along with the story, and helps them with their homework afterward. Kyla has asked her high school Key Club to take on the project after she graduates. Kyla said her project has taught her that “it is a tremendous hardship to be a minority at a school,” and that “kids who do not speak English deserve to know how the support of a tight-knit community feels.”
Middle Level State Honoree: Karlee Albertson
Nominated by Castle Rock Middle School
Karlee, a sixth-grader at Castle Rock Middle School, has raised nearly $20,000 over the past six years to buy anonymous Christmas gifts for struggling families and individuals, by painting nails at school events and community venues. When she was just a first-grader, Karlee saw a TV commercial about “being the change you wish to see.” She and her mother considered many possible ways she could make a difference in her community before Karlee came up with the idea of painting nails at her school’s craft fair and using the proceeds to “adopt” students and families on the school’s Christmas Giving Tree. “I felt it was important to help those less fortunate people who couldn’t afford Christmas,” she said.
Shortly afterward, Karlee’s grandfather, who always loved Christmastime, died on Christmas Eve, so Karlee decided to continue “as a way to carry on his memory,” she said. She began painting nails at various community events and locations, charging $3 per customer. She also started receiving donations of money, gift cards and nail polish as word of her project spread and people learned about her GoFundMe page. With money in hand, Karlee spends a lot of time shopping for presents, and wraps them all with the help of a Boy Scout troop and other volunteers. So far, she has given Christmas gifts anonymously to more than 250 people. “My dream would be that someday, everybody everywhere has a Christmas present under their tree and feels loved and blessed,” said Karlee.
The program judges also recognized two other Montana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Montana’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Lauren Helbling, 17, of Helena, Mont., a senior at Capital High School, organized a prom dress drive that collected more than 100 lightly-used formal dresses for high school girls who could not otherwise afford to attend their school prom. She is now expanding the drive into a community-wide program that will include shoes, accessories, corsages, boutonnieres, make-up, hair styling and men’s formalwear for all dances in the Helena area.
Treven Maharg, 18, of Helena, Mont., a senior at Helena High School, organized a “Night with the Stars” prom dance for people with disabilities at his church last April, creating an evening of music, dancing, food, photos and fun for 120 attendees. Treven directed a committee that created a website to publicize the event recruited volunteers to help, sought donations of food, flowers and decorations, and managed logistics on the night of the dance.
“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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