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Michigan's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 11th Annual National Awards Program; Bangor and Belding Students Earn $1,000 Awards, Engraved Medallions and Trip to Nation's Capital; Honors Also Bestowed on Other Top Youth Volunteers in Michigan.

LANSING, Mich. -- Jacqueline Kenyon, 16, of Bangor and Ella Kate Wagner, 13, of Belding today were named Michigan's top two youth volunteers for 2006 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 11th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Jacqueline was nominated by Michigan Lutheran High School in St. Joseph, and Ella Kate was nominated by Belding Middle School in Belding. As State Honorees, 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 - one middle level and one high school youth - from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2006 at that time.

Jacqueline, a junior at Michigan Lutheran High School, has served for the past four years as ambassador of an annual camp for children with congenital hand differences. "I was born without all my fingers due to what is called Amniotic Band Syndrome," Jacqueline said. "Because I have had many experiences with my hands, I can help those who aren't comfortable with their differences."

At the Hands to Love Congenital Hand Camp in Florida, Jacqueline counsels young campers and their parents, both individually and in groups, answering questions and sharing stories about her own experiences. She gives advice, helps children with personal struggles caused by their differences, and tries to build each child's self-confidence "by encouraging them to look at their differences as blessings and not a curse." Jacqueline also urges parents to embrace and encourage their child's differences. In addition, she helps organize activities at the camp, and participates in two benefits each year to raise money for the camp. "What you do or don't have doesn't matter," she said. "It's the real live person that you are that people will see you for."

Ella Kate, an eighth-grader at Belding Middle School, organized a school-wide book collection drive to create a 2,000-volume children's library at a refugee school in the West African nation of Guinea. Ella Kate decided to collect books after corresponding with a young girl in a pen-pal program connecting African refugees and U.S. citizens, and then viewing videos sent by her refugee school. "I felt it was important because the refugee students wanted to learn to read English but to be able to do this you need books," she said.

With the help of a teacher friend, Ella Kate created an action plan, recruited student helpers from two schools, gave classroom presentations, made flyers, and devised class competitions. She and her project team then collected and sorted donated books by reading level, calculated classroom winners, and completed the project by shipping 2,000 new and gently used books to Guinea. "I felt really good when I knew the books were on their way," Ella Kate said. The project also sparked increased interest in volunteering at her school, and resulted in a new service-learning class for students.

In addition, the program judges recognized eight other Michigan students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:

Sarah Jaward, 17, of Dearborn Heights, a senior at Dearborn High School in Dearborn, co-founded a student project called "Food for Ramadan" that provides food to less fortunate Muslim families during the holy month of Ramadan. During each of the past four years Sarah and other members of her school's Arabic/Islamic Club have raised funds, shopped for groceries, assembled dozens of food baskets and then delivered them to local families needing assistance.

Caitlin Kos, 13, of Waterford, a seventh-grader at Marist Academy in Pontiac, raised $5,000 for Asian tsunami victims by organizing a "donations-only" birthday party, followed by a school fund-raising and awareness campaign. With her mother's help, Caitlin decorated her party with posters and pictures of tsunami victims and disaster areas, created a school bulletin board showing students how and where they could contribute, and then organized a teacher appreciation luncheon featuring food from countries hit by the 2004 tsunami.

Bethany Lyon, 17, of Vestaburg, a member-volunteer of the Mid-Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross in Alma and a senior at Under His Wings Christian Academy, trains and works with her certified therapy dog, "Kitty," to help children improve their reading skills at schools and libraries. With Bethany's assistance, Kitty provides young readers with one-on-one attention while they read aloud, shares her unconditional love, and makes reading a fun experience.

Lauren Mondry, 15, of Bloomfield Hills, a sophomore at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, launched a community-wide project that has furnished close to 5,000 knitted caps over the past several years for children undergoing chemotherapy treatment at area hospitals. Lauren has obtained help from local knitting stores and more than 100 volunteers, taught children to knit caps, publicized her project, and distributed her hats to the Children's Hospital in Detroit, Karmanos Cancer Center, and the University of Michigan Cancer Center.

Rebecca Nesbit, 16, of Bad Axe, a member of the MSU Extension-Huron County 4-H and a junior at North Huron High School in Kinde, creates "busy boxes" containing crafts kits, books, games and movies for children in a local hospital. After receiving approval from officials, Rebecca recruited help, organized an advertising campaign to solicit donations, distributed collection boxes to local businesses, and then delivered "Becca's Busy Boxes" to the emergency room and children's floor of the hospital.

Jennifer Wakenell, 17, of Livonia, a senior at Divine Child High School in Dearborn, created a campaign to raise awareness of Turner Syndrome and nonverbal learning disabilities. After conducting extensive research into the conditions, Jennifer designed informational posters, newsletters and other materials depicting the everyday challenges of children with TS or NLD; raised money to establish a specialized lending library on the subjects; and began serving as a spokesperson and advocate for TS and NLD issues.

Gang Xu, 17, of Saginaw, a senior at Heritage High School, organized and leads a tutoring service for struggling middle level students. During his program's first year, Gang recruited and trained 24 student volunteers, solicited financial backing for lesson materials and snacks, and scheduled tutoring sessions for 45 middle school students.

John Zhou, 18, of Northville, a senior at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, organized a "walk team" that collected more than $7,200 to help AIDS-afflicted individuals and support prevention education programs. John also developed a Chinese/English Web site for Golden Courage International, a charity supporting 300 AIDS-affected orphans in China.

"The recipients of these awards vividly demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities," said Art Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "They truly deserve all of the praise and encouragement we can give them."

"The young people recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards demonstrate an enormous capacity for giving and reaching out to those in need," said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "NASSP is proud to honor them as they are wonderful examples of the high caliber of young people in our nation's schools today."

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 Volunteer Centers, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. Nearly 8,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by state-level judges, who selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital's landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian 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 8 by a prestigious national selection committee. 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.

U.S. Senators Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia will serve as co-chairs of the national selection committee. Also serving on the committee will be Ryan of Prudential; actor Richard Dreyfuss; Alma Powell, chair of America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth; Robert Goodwin, President and CEO of the Points of Light Foundation; Amy B. Cohen, Director of Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Donald T. Floyd Jr., President and CEO of National 4-H Council; Ken Gladish, National Executive Director of YMCA of the USA; David Vodila, President of NASSP; and two 2005 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Devin Cohen of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., and Lindsey Williams of St. Joseph, Mo.

In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will be distributing President's Volunteer Service Awards to nearly 4,200 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. The President's Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is supported by National 4-H Council, Girl Scouts of the USA, American Red Cross, YMCA of the USA, Points of Light Foundation, American Association of School Administrators, National Middle School Association, National School Boards Association, Council of the Great City Schools, National School Public Relations Association, and many other national youth and service organizations.

The awards are part of a broad initiative created by Prudential to encourage young people to become involved in community service. Other elements of the initiative include a community leadership training program for high school students, now administered by the Points of Light Foundation; and a variety of educational materials for young people and teachers relating to youth volunteerism.

For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit, or

NASSP - the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders - provides its members the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders. NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of youth through its programs and student leadership services. NASSP administers the National Honor Society(TM), National Junior Honor Society(TM), and National Association of Student Councils(TM).

Prudential Financial companies serve individual and institutional customers worldwide and include The Prudential Insurance Company of America, one of the largest life insurance companies in the United States. These companies offer a variety of products and services, including life insurance, mutual funds, annuities, pension and retirement related services and administration, asset management, securities brokerage, banking and trust services, real estate brokerage franchises and relocation services. For more information, visit
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Date:Feb 14, 2006
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