The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Dresher and Duncannon students with $1,000, medallions and trip to nation’s capital
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Amanda Yang, 16, of Dresher and Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer, 11, of Duncannon today were named Pennsylvania’s top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Amanda and Lorelei 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 2017.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Pennsylvania’s top youth volunteers of 2017:
High School State Honoree: Amanda Yang
Nominated by Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington
Amanda, a junior at Upper Dublin High School, teaches art classes for residents of six local nursing homes, and wrote a book to share her methods and projects with caregivers at other retirement facilities. Amanda saw firsthand how difficult it is to grow old when she watched her grandparents struggle with mental and physical decline. “I wanted to do something to help seniors like my grandparents,” she said. An art lover since her elementary school days, Amanda decided she would form a nonprofit, “hART to heart,” and share her passion with nursing home residents.
She began volunteering every Saturday at a local nursing home. She designed easy and fun “senior-friendly” art projects and then helped the residents complete those projects. Said Amanda: “I soon noticed that my class imparted a sense of agency, accomplishment and belonging to the seniors,” who displayed their creations in their rooms and gave them as gifts to grandchildren. Motivated by her success, Amanda expanded her class to five other nursing homes, reaching a total of about 200 seniors. She also wrote a 60-page book describing 11 of her art projects, so that caregivers at other nursing homes can employ her methods in their work with the elderly. The book so far has been used in 18 states across the country, according to Amanda. “Through my work, I’ve seen how art can be a vehicle for keeping seniors engaged mentally and physically, thereby enhancing their health,” she said.
Middle Level State Honoree: Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer
Nominated by The Cove School in Duncannon
Lorelei, a sixth-grader at The Cove School, built a volunteer network that has provided more than 9,000 special pillows for children around the world undergoing heart surgery. Lorelei was born without a left ventricle in her heart and has endured dozens of surgeries and procedures. During one hospitalization at age 5, her mother brought her a “compression heart pillow,” which is used to support the chest after surgery, make it less painful to cough, and to provide comfort. But the pillow was adult-size, and much too big for Lorelei. She decided that kids like her needed kid-size pillows. “I knew what it was like to go through the pain of open heart surgery. I wanted to come up with a way to make it easier for other kids,” said Lorelei.
Lorelei learned to sew, bought materials with her own money, and began making one pediatric compression heart pillow per day. As word got out, people started contacting her to request pillows or offer to help make them. To coordinate the work of volunteers both near and far, Lorelei worked with a seamstress to create a pattern, and consulted with a medical team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about how to sterilize the pillows and package them safely. Lorelei has sent her pillows to young heart patients as far away as Ireland, China and South Africa. She also has raised more than $10,000 to support cardiac care for children. “I’m missing half a heart, but that won’t stop me,” she said.
The program judges also recognized eight other Pennsylvania students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Finalists for 2017:
Sravya Alla, 17, of Exton Pa., a senior at Great Valley High School, raised more than $10,000 to help people in her native India, and then worked with a nonprofit organization to direct it to a variety of projects, from digging clean water wells to distributing prosthetic limbs to 95 amputees. Sravya traveled to the Andhra Pradesh region of India over the summer to carry out her projects, which also included a day of volunteering with abandoned children at a local orphanage.
Issac Avery, 17, of East Berlin, Pa., a senior at Bermudian Springs High School, is a junior volunteer firefighter with Lake Meade Fire and Rescue, helping with tasks around the station and responding to calls ranging from house fires to car accidents. Issac, whose grandfather was the fire chief, started volunteering with the company when he was 5 years old, and is continuing to train so he can earn firefighter and EMT certifications.
Mary McCans, 17, of Havertown, Pa., a senior at Cardinal O’Hara High School, is an EMT who volunteers 12 hours a week with the Narberth Ambulance service, and a CPR training advocate who has organized a school training day reaching more than 650 students and spoken at the state capitol in support of mandatory CPR training in schools. Mary advocates for CPR training after seeing the procedure save a 10-day-old baby, and now serves as an American Heart Association CPR in Schools advocate.
Prithvi Parthasarathy, 12, of Exton, Pa., a seventh-grader at Great Valley Middle School, has worked with the Literacy Empowerment Foundation to package, stamp and ship books for children in need, and developed an app to help kids and their parents track which books they’d read. Prithvi is an active volunteer who has participated in a variety of service activities, from lending a hand at a Diwali food drive to serving as a junior counselor with the Great Valley Nature Center.
Ryan Poisker, 12, of Pittsburgh, Pa., a seventh-grader at Ingomar Middle School, led an initiative to create a Purple Up for Military Kids program at his school, working with his friends to make materials and raise awareness about the sacrifices of military children. Ryan, whose father is in the military, started his effort so other military kids wouldn’t have to deal with their emotions alone; since starting his program, school counselors have been able to connect kids from military families with one another.
Saramia Suarez, 18, of Philadelphia, Pa., a senior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, established “Project Christmas Angel,” a charity that since 2009 has raised more than $5,000 and provided 215 families in need with toys and gift cards over the holidays. Saramia, who initially started the charity in fifth grade as her confirmation project, has recruited local businesses and organizations to support her annual collection drives; she’s asked another fifth-grader to continue the effort once she goes off to college.
Erica Wang, 17, of Hummelstown, Pa., a senior at Hershey High School, was the lead organizer for “Walk for Clean Water,” a 3.25-mile walk around her school’s campus that raised more than $17,500 for the Thirst Project – enough to build two groundwater wells in Swaziland. Erica, who helped create the walk as Key Club vice president, worked with her co-founder to create a starter pack to help others establish “Walk for Clean Water” events in their hometowns.
Ethan Woodfill, 17, of Pittsburgh, Pa., a junior at Avonworth High School, is founder and president of the Avonworth-Area Do Something Club, a service group for students in grades 6-12 that has completed nearly 30 volunteer projects in almost four years. Ethan, who typically dedicates 5-10 hours a week to club activities, has also worked with the national Do Something organization to engage young people, locally and on a national level, in a trash scavenger hunt campaign that he came up with.
“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”
“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their work,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students.”
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. 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 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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.
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]www.nassp.org/spirit.