The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Farmington Hills and Oxford students with $1,000, medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Finalists also named in Cass City, Farmington Hills, Ubly, New Haven, Bloomfield Hills, Okemos and Royal Oak
LANSING, Mich., Feb. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Jessica Goldberg, 18, of Farmington Hills and Alex Vanharen, 13, of Oxford today were named Michigan’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Jessica and Alex 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 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Michigan’s top youth volunteers of 2020:
High School State Honoree: Jessica Goldberg
Nominated by North Farmington High School
Jessica, a senior at North Farmington High School, built a support network for the siblings of young people dealing with mental illness, providing them with support groups, social events, networking opportunities, an advocacy voice and other resources. “As someone who has a sibling that struggles with mental health, I am intimately familiar with the anger, frustration and resentment that my chaotic home can bring,” said Jessica. After searching for a “safe place” in her community to cope with her emotions and finding none, she decided to create an organization to serve the often-overlooked siblings of children with mental illnesses.
The main component of her organization is support groups for children ages 6 to 18, where, with the help of a licensed psychologist, they can discuss their feelings, deal with negativity and learn coping skills. As the founder and president of the board of her nonprofit, named “Sib4Sib,” Jessica is in charge of the day-to-day operations, leads brainstorming and focus group sessions, manages partnerships, develops support group agendas, designs promotional material, oversees fundraising committees and serves as the public face of the organization. Recently, Jessica won an award with a prize of $36,000, which she will use to hire an executive director. She said she will remain president of her board after she leaves for college next year, and plans to start a chapter at her new school when she arrives.
Middle Level State Honoree: Alex Vanharen
Nominated by Oxford Middle School
Alex, an eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School, has donated more than 7,500 hats, gloves, and scarves to people in need over the past five years, and has organized annual donation drives to collect pop tops for a Ronald McDonald House, eyeglasses for the Lions Club and hygiene items for victims of domestic violence. It all started one cold day when Alex was out on the school playground and saw a group of students wearing lightweight clothing, trying to stay warm. “At that very moment, I realized how fortunate I was and I wanted to help them,” he said. As soon as he got home, he announced to his mother, “We need to learn how to knit right now!” That same day, they studied a YouTube video on how to loom, and went out to buy knitting supplies.
Before long, word got out about his desire to help others, and volunteers began offering to assist with knitting, to donate or purchase yarn and other items, and to make deliveries. Alex now spends most of his time tracking and organizing donations, storing and loading them onto delivery vehicles, and maintaining a Facebook page to promote the initiative. To date, Alex’s nonprofit has distributed winter apparel accessories through 22 schools and more than 20 charitable organizations. In addition, his drives have collected more than 40 pounds of pop tops for Ronald McDonald House, and over 400 pairs of glasses for the Lions Club, plus building materials for Habitat for Humanity, blankets and towels for an animal rescue organization, used books for a children’s charity and personal hygiene items for an agency serving victims of domestic violence.
The program judges also recognized eight other Michigan students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Michigan’s Distinguished Finalists for 2020:
Addy Battel, 17, of Cass City, Michigan, a member of Huron County 4-H and a home-schooled senior, co-founded “Meating the Need for Our Village,” through which nearly 500 volunteers raise animals to provide meat, milk, cheese and eggs to low-income families in the community. Addy was inspired to start her project after the only grocery store in her community closed; so far, 10,000 pounds of youth-raised meat, 2,700 gallons of milk and 300 dozen eggs have been distributed to those in need.
Abigail Collins-Carey, 18, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, a senior at Oakland Early College, started and runs “Shared Exchange,” a program through which current and past exchange students connect with others to discuss culture through video calls or in-person discussions; her program includes participants in the U.S., Austria, Japan and France. Abigail was inspired to start this project after participating in an exchange program in Bella Unión, Uruguay.
Pearl Daskam, 17, of Ubly, Michigan, a member of Huron County 4-H and a home-schooled senior, co-founded “Meating the Need for Our Village,” which has distributed 10,000 pounds of youth-raised meat, 2,700 gallons of milk and 300 dozen eggs to people in need in her community; her efforts include securing grants, recruiting volunteers, raising chickens and organizing deliveries. Pearl was inspired to start her project after her town’s only grocery store closed and the community became a food desert.
Robert Eimers, 17, of New Haven, Michigan, a home-schooled senior, started “The Eimers Foundation,” through which he provides support to people who are homeless; his efforts include distributing food, water, clothing and blankets, contributing money to a family facing foreclosure, and setting up a scholarship fund for high school seniors dealing with housing insecurity. Robert, who has also lobbied his representatives on the issue of homelessness, has raised more than $90,000 for his foundation.
John Fletcher, 17, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a senior at Ernest W. Seaholm High School, started and runs “The Giving Room,” a project through which he collects and redistributes toiletry items for people in need; his efforts include soliciting and picking up mini toiletries from hotels, then organizing, packaging and delivering them to warming centers across Detroit. John was inspired to start his project after learning that hotels regularly throw away unopened toiletries.
Dora Ivkovich, 15, of Ingham, Michigan, a senior at Okemos High School, runs “A Chance to Dance,” which has offered adaptive social dancing lessons to 25 high school and college students with disabilities; her efforts include gaining certification to teach, recruiting volunteer dance partners and securing space and assistive devices. To expand the impact of her program, Dora also started offering instructional skill workshops to help social workers, teachers and physical therapists learn how to teach adaptive dance.
Mackenzie Martin, 17, of Oakland County, Michigan, a junior at Detroit Country Day School, co-founded “MK Blanket Wraps,” through which she has sewn and distributed more than 700 warm, colorful fleece wraps to people experiencing homelessness. Mackenzie, who started the project with her younger sister, has also hosted summer classes at shelters to teach residents how to sew; they are currently expanding their impact by recruiting other sewing teachers to run similar classes in additional shelters.
Paloma Palomino, 14, of Royal Oak, Michigan, an eighth-grader at Academy of the Sacred Heart, started a project to spread awareness about “period poverty,” the lack of access to feminine hygiene products for women in need; she gave an informational presentation at a school assembly and collected and donated feminine hygiene products to a local shelter. Paloma started her project after reading about the high number of women who have to miss work or school due to lack of access to basic hygiene products.
“In our 25th year of honoring young volunteers, we are as inspired as ever by the work students are doing to address the needs of a changing world,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We hope that their resolve, their initiative and their perspectives on society’s challenges move others to consider how they can make a difference, too.”
“Middle level and high school students are doing remarkable things to shape the future of their communities through volunteer service. They inspire all students and schools to drive learning with real-world challenges,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2020 honorees – it’s an honor to celebrate your commitment to creating positive change.”
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 Points of Light Global Network members, 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 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 130,000 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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