AUGUSTA, Maine – Katherine Elliott, 18, of Scarborough and Marissa Bates, 10, of Westbrook today were named Maine’s top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Katherine was nominated by Scarborough High School in Scarborough, and Marissa was nominated by Girl Scouts of Maine in South Portland. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Katherine, a senior at Scarborough High School, recruits fellow students to help her conduct a community collection drive each month to benefit a variety of local charitable organizations. Katie had been involved in volunteer activities for many years, but eventually “realized that I needed to do more to support the community that has given me so much,” she said. She decided the best thing to do would be to gather money and supplies for local charities, “having seen firsthand how much pressure is put on the shoulders of nonprofits to support the less fortunate,” she said.
So Katie established her own charity, “The Driving Force,” in November 2011. Each month, she picks one nonprofit to support, contacts its officials to determine what they need most, and then asks area teenagers to help her collect and deliver donations. Katie created a Facebook page that she uses to communicate with her volunteers, and publicizes her drives by hanging posters and stuffing mailboxes. So far, her drives have benefited a Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army, the Preble Street Soup Kitchen, the Center for Grieving Children, the Animal Refuge League, the Lighthouse Shelter, Children’s Miracle Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters. “So many people rely on all of these organizations for different reasons,” said Katie, “and these nonprofits would not be able to stay afloat without outside support.”
Marissa, a fifth-grader at Westbrook Middle School, came up with the idea of a “mitten tree” to distribute mittens and warm hats to students who need them. “I noticed that a lot of kids at school had no hat or mittens,” explained Marissa. “I wanted to help my classmates stay warm.” She told her mother that she wanted to help, and then proposed setting up a “tree” in school with mittens and hats for any students that wanted them.
Marissa brought the idea to her Girl Scout troop, which agreed to work with her on the project.
After collecting donations of mittens and hats from friends and family members, the scouts set up a tree at an elementary school. “It was a great success,” said Marissa, so the next winter she and her fellow volunteers put trees in three more schools and at a community center. A local dry cleaning company heard about the project and agreed to help keep the trees stocked all winter. “Any kid can get what they need when they need it without asking,” said Marissa. “No one in our community goes without warm hats or mittens anymore!”
As State Honorees, Katherine and Marissa 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 2013.
The program judges also recognized four other Maine students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Maine’s Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Corey Kruszenski, 18, of Kennebunk, Maine, a senior at Kennebunk High School, has helped to raise more than $15,000 to fund a trip to Guatemala for himself and other members of his school’s Interact Club to help create a water filtration project for a Guatemalan village. Corey, who is president of the club, is also a member of the board of directors for Community Harvest, a local food pantry and has represented his school’s Interact Club at a Rotary International Conference at the United Nations.
Sydney Pepin, 14, of Alfred, Maine, a freshman at Massabesic High School in Waterboro, raised more than $3,400 with sponsorships to create and distribute more than 250 “cancer support bags” filled with tissues, snacks, cough drops, lotion, puzzle books, pens, paper and stuffed animals. Sydney, whose mother and other relatives have battled cancer, created her project so that first-time chemotherapy and radiation therapy patients could feel support on their first days, and subsequent days, of treatment.
“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”
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 HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Nearly 5,000 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 2013. 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 100,000 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 and India. 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 on behalf of President Barack Obama.
For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.
NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance.
Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society™, National Junior Honor Society®, National Elementary Honor Society®, and National Association of Student Councils®. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit 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 http://www.news.prudential.com/.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and
medallions, visit http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW