Indiana's Top Youth Volunteers Of 2020 Selected By National Program

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors La Porte and Zionsville students with $1,000, medallions and trip to nation's capital

Finalists also named in Dyer, West Lafayette, Franklin, Shelbyville, Angola and Crandall

PR Newswire

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Emily Graves, 17, of La Porte and Margaret Dimmett, 13, of Zionsville today were named Indiana'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, Emily and Margaret 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. 

(PRNewsfoto/Prudential Insurance)

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 Indiana's top youth volunteers of 2020:

High School State Honoree: Emily Graves

Nominated by New Prairie High School

Emily, a senior at New Prairie High School, founded a nonprofit organization that has delivered more than 35,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to active and former military personnel at home and abroad over the past decade. When Emily was 6, her mother challenged her to think about how she could use the Girl Scout cookies she was selling to help others. Emily bought several boxes with her own money, solicited donations to buy 600 more, and contacted veterans' organizations to help her ship them to service members. "Active military members are separated from their homes and families," she explained. "I wanted to give them a piece of home, something comforting in the midst of uncertainty."

Now, every year during Girl Scout cookie season, Emily writes letters to companies and organizations to solicit donations, and contacts local Girl Scout troops to enlist their assistance. With help from more than 150 volunteers, Emily purchases over 5,000 boxes of cookies and packs them up at an annual packing event. She ships cookies both to active soldiers and to veterans, and personally hands them out at veterans hospitals, Honor Flights, and at other military and veterans events. In addition to making service members feel appreciated, Emily's "Cookies for Soldiers" organization is teaching younger students about the heroism and sacrifice of those who serve their country. "Military members and veterans who receive a box or shipment are told that there are people who care for them, see them and appreciate them," Emily said.

Middle Level State Honoree: Margaret Dimmett

Nominated by Zionsville Middle School

Margaret, an eighth-grader at Zionsville Middle School, established a charity with her sister that has raised more than $13,000 over the past three years to buy instruments, sheet music and other music equipment for schools and music programs across Indiana, and to promote the importance of music education. Meg and her sister, Kate, both began playing the violin at age 3, and since then music has played a big role in their lives. When their parents began shopping for a new violin for Kate, the girls realized how expensive instruments are, and how many young people would not be able to afford to play music. There are so many benefits to learning music at a young age, said Meg. "We wanted to provide as many students as possible with the chance to be exposed to music in their schools or through other programs."

Meg and her sister asked local businesses for support and for opportunities to perform for donations on their premises. The girls were soon playing at ice cream shops, furniture stores, farmers' markets and sporting events, often joined by classmates and community members. They also launched an annual fall letter writing campaign to attract contributions, and requested donations from family and friends in lieu of birthday gifts. Since 2017, more than 20 musicians and vocalists have performed at fundraising events for Meg's foundation, "Notable Measures." And in that time, the organization has made grants of $300 to $1,000 to eight schools and music/arts organizations across the state, and provided scholarships for three students to play in a youth orchestra.        

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized six other Indiana students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Indiana's Distinguished Finalists for 2020:

Adam Akan, 15, of Dyer, Indiana, a sophomore at Forest Ridge Academy, created and runs "Region Kids for Comfort," an organization designed to help young people get involved in their community through fundraising and volunteering; the group has donated to women's and men's shelters and an organization for children with special needs. Adam was inspired to start this organization by his church and by his brother, who has developmental disabilities.

Doonyah Alucozai, 17, of West Lafayette, Indiana, a senior at West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School, cofounded "CoderDojoAnvil," a nonprofit that offered free coding classes to more than 250 students from underserved communities; she recruited volunteers, secured space and corporate sponsors, organized community events and helped design the curriculum. Doonyah was inspired to start this project after being unable to find affordable STEM-related programs in her area.

Emma Dillon, 18, of Franklin, Indiana, a senior at Franklin Community High School, created and runs "Emma's Bows," through which she makes and sells hair bows and jewelry; over the past six years, she has donated more than $45,000 from her business to a variety of national and local organizations. Emma, who is deaf, was first inspired to start her service activity by her teacher for the deaf, who died from cancer in 2016.

Julia Hamblen, 18, of Shelbyville, Indiana, a member of Shelby County 4-H and a senior at Shelbyville Senior High School, recruited and led a group of peers who raised money for the Salvation Army by soliciting donations outside of local businesses. Julia, who played holiday music on her guitar as they volunteered, chose this project because her family received support from the Salvation Army when their home caught on fire in 2014.

Elayna Hasty, 18, of Angola, Indiana, a senior at Angola High School, created and runs "G.A.B. Girls (Girls Against Bullying Girls)," a nonprofit that helps combat childhood bullying through education and support; she has reached more than 1,700 students through 75 workshops and regularly answers emails and letters from program participants. Elayna was inspired to start her nonprofit to support other girls after she and a classmate experienced bullying.

Julia Keibler, 18, of Crandall, Indiana, a senior at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School, has volunteered hundreds of hours of her time at several summer camps over the past three years, partnering with campers with disabilities to help meet any needs they may have; she has also spread awareness of the camps and recruited friends to volunteer. Julia plans to continue to donate her time by serving as a volunteer at seven different camps in 2020.

"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.

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.

About NASSP

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 PrudentialFinancial

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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