Two Wyoming Youth Honored for Volunteerism at National Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON -- Two Wyoming students, Ryan Hopkin, 17, of Powell and James Etier, 13, of Rock Springs were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer work during the presentation of The 2008 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The two young people - along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country - received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, at the 13th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Ryan and James were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Wyoming last February. In addition to their cash awards, they received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week's recognition events.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 13 years ago by Prudential Financial, Inc. to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 80,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
"Ryan and James are inspiring examples of young Americans who care deeply about the needs of others and who have taken the initiative to help meet those needs," said Prudential Chairman Arthur F. Ryan. "By honoring them, we hope not only to give them the recognition they so richly deserve, but also to inspire others to follow their example."
Ryan, a senior at Powell High School, improved safety conditions for young children by installing crosswalk flags at dangerous intersections around three elementary schools. "One day while I was driving with my mother, I witnessed a young boy almost get hit by a car while trying to cross the street," explained Ryan. "Since that time I wanted to find a way to help these children make their trips back and forth from home to school safer." Ryan soon found an answer on a family trip to Salt Lake City, where he saw canisters containing neon-orange flags at busy intersections for pedestrians to carry when crossing the street.
Ryan presented a plan for a similar system to school and city leaders in Powell. With their approval, he worked with city officials, school principals and parent organizations at Powell's three elementary schools to develop a list of locations. Ryan solicited donations to purchase materials, and then recruited help from family members and his Boy Scout troop to make canisters and mount them on posts at crosswalks. The city's street superintendent agreed to purchase and post instructional signs at the crosswalks, and finally, Ryan delivered flags to the principals of the elementary schools with a letter explaining how to use them. "I believe these flags will make pedestrians more visible and will help drivers realize they are responsible for stopping for pedestrians," said Ryan.
James, an eighth-grader at Rock Springs East Junior High School, has participated in a wide range of volunteer activities that have benefited more than 100 people in his community. James started volunteering when he joined an after-school program. As a participant in that program, James has walked dogs, cleaned cages and fed homeless animals at a Humane Society shelter. He sorted paper at a recycling center, read to young children at an elementary school, and volunteered with the Salvation Army at Christmastime. James also has picked up trash, pulled weeds and washed windows for senior citizens, and has visited elderly residents at a local nursing home. "I tried to make people's days easier either by trying to bring smiles while reading to the little kids or visiting the elderly at our nursing home," he said. "I try my best to help."
Applications for the 2008 awards program were submitted last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Volunteer Centers affiliated with the Points of Light & Hands On Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state and the District of Columbia were announced in February. These 102 State Honorees are in Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.
Ten of the 102 were named America's top ten youth volunteers for 2008 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters today. These National Honorees received additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies for the schools that nominated them, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for charities of their choice. [The ceremony can be viewed at www.prudential.com/spirit.]
The ten National Honorees are:
Kristen Allcorn, 18, of Sedalia, Mo., who founded a soup kitchen that provides a hot evening meal five days a week, serving needy residents at tables as if they were eating in a restaurant. Called The Community Cafe, Kristen's kitchen has served more than 12,000 meals since December 2006.
Kristin Brandt, 17, of Lock Haven, Pa., who rallied her school and community to help her build a two-bedroom modular home on her school grounds. After 16 months of fund-raising and construction, the house was hauled 1,200 miles to Mississippi, where it was presented to an 80-year-old woman who had lost everything to Hurricane Katrina.
Bria Brown, 13, of Miami Gardens, Fla., a five-year cancer survivor who recruited friends, classmates and her Girl Scout troop to help her conduct a drive in her community to collect teddy bears, which she personalizes and delivers to other young cancer patients to bring them hope and encouragement.
Shanna Decker, 17, of Plainview, Minn., who has made more than 600 visits to young cancer patients over the past nine years to give them hope and inspire them with her own cancer experience, which resulted in a leg amputation. She also is a frequent speaker at events across the country, and has participated in activities that have raised more than $120,000 for sick and disadvantaged kids.
Talia Leman, 13, of Waukee, Iowa, who started an organization called "RandomKid" that seeks to educate, motivate and unify young people around the world to work on a broad spectrum of pressing needs. Her projects have raised money for hurricane victims, helped build a school in Cambodia, and provided clean water in Africa.
Jenna Machado, 17, of Boulder, Colo., who founded a nonprofit organization to increase awareness about depression and suicide prevention, after a cousin took her own life. Jenna has delivered community presentations on the warning signs of depression and suicide, conducted an education program in middle and high schools, and raised money to provide treatment sessions for at-risk teens.
Riley Miller, 14, of Bowling Green, Ky., who has organized an annual citywide day of lemonade sales for the past three years to raise money for childhood cancer research, after losing two little brothers to leukemia. Last year, Riley managed 200 volunteers and 29 lemonade stands, collecting more than $19,000 and bringing her three-year total to $50,000.
Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, 16, of Cleveland, Tenn., who collects CDs and DVDs and sends them out every week to American soldiers serving in combat zones. More than 200 organizations across the country have joined her "Tunes 4 the Troops" campaign, and over 170,000 discs have been shipped to boost the morale of U.S. troops overseas.
Mark Rinkel, 12, of Aurora, Colo., who raised more than $16,000 to provide medical service dogs for his little brother and other children suffering from type I diabetes. To raise the money, he operated a lemonade stand at community events last summer, and built a Web site to solicit donations.
Joey Rizzolo, 13, of Paramus, N.J., who organized a "Freedom Walk" last September that drew more than 450 local residents to join in remembering the lives lost on 9/11, including many in his own town. Joey's event also was dedicated to thanking first responders, U.S. service members and veterans for saving lives and protecting our freedom.
The national selection committee that chose the ten National Honorees was co-chaired by U.S. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Arthur Ryan of Prudential. Also serving on the committee were actor Richard Dreyfuss; Alma Powell, chair of the America's Promise Alliance; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & Hands On Network; 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; Kathryn Forbes, national chair of volunteers, American Red Cross; Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; Barry Stark, president of NASSP; and two 2007 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Kelly Davis of West Bath, Me., and Kelydra Welcker of Parkersburg, W.Va.
NASSP President Barry Stark said: "The young people in this country are capable of doing some extraordinary things given the time and the opportunity. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is one of the great showcases of their amazing acts of kindness and selflessness. We are pleased to once again join Prudential in honoring them for their accomplishments."
In addition to the organizations above, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are supported by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Middle School Association, the National School Boards Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, the National School Public Relations Association and many other national youth and service organizations.
More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees can be found at www.prudential.com/spirit or www.principals.org/prudential.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals - the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders - provides its members with 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 sponsors the National Honor Society[TM], the National Junior Honor Society[TM], the National Elementary Honor Society[TM], and the National Association of Student Councils[TM]. For more information on NASSP, NHS, NJHS, NEHS or NASC, visit www.principals.org.
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader with approximately $631 billion of assets under management as of March 31, 2008, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Leveraging its heritage of life insurance and asset management expertise, Prudential is focused on helping more than 50 million individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth. The company's well-known Rock symbol is an icon of strength, stability, expertise and innovation that has stood the test of time. Prudential's businesses offer a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services. For more information, please visit www.prudential.com.
[Editors: full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at www.prudential.com/spirit.]