Alabama’s Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 21st Annual National Awards Program

Killen and Troy students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and
trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Opp, Thomasville,
Bessemer and Sylacauga

MONTGOMERY, Ala.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Madison Haney, 17, of Killen and Ciara Laird, 10, of Troy today were
named Alabama’s top two youth volunteers of 2016 by The Prudential
Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people
for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Madison was nominated by Florence
High School in Florence, and Ciara was nominated by New Life Christian
Academy in Troy. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its
21st year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Madison, a senior at Florence High School, collected backpacks for a
local foundation to fill with food on Fridays and send home with
students who get free lunch at school, but have little to eat at home
over the weekend. While Madison was eating breakfast at a weekend band
practice, a classmate approached her and asked if she had any extra
food. When questioned, the girl said she hadn’t eaten since lunch the
previous day. “She said she received free lunch at school but her family
didn’t have money to buy food at home,” said Madison. “This broke my
heart.” Upon further investigation, Madison discovered that many
students at her school go to bed hungry. She was determined to help.

Madison contacted a local foundation that serves at-risk children and
learned that it needed backpacks for a weekend food program benefiting
more than 300 at-risk children in the area. She asked her friends to
donate their gently used backpacks, then posted details about her
project on social media and placed donation boxes around her school. She
also made fliers and began handing them out to parents at other schools
in her district. It wasn’t long before local businesses began supporting
her efforts by donating both backpacks and school supplies. After
Madison collected all of the donated backpacks, she brought them home,
and with help from her mother, cleaned and repaired them before
delivering them to the foundation.

Ciara, a fifth-grader at New Life Christian Academy, began a food drive
to feed the hungry in her community after witnessing someone eating out
of a dumpster outside a restaurant. After that disturbing experience,
Ciara placed a small box inside her school classroom to collect canned
food for the Salvation Army. That effort has now become a continuous
food drive, and Ciara, as president of her school’s honor society, is
actively encouraging all students to work together to feed the hungry.
“These food drives provide an opportunity to inform, encourage and
involve all participants in understanding and addressing hunger issues
in our community,” she said.

Ciara also has filled shoeboxes with Christmas gifts for children in
need, made care packages for families affected by local storms, and
volunteered at a local nursing home and sang Christmas songs to the
residents of the home. She also assisted at a local community garden
that is connected to an afterschool center.

As State Honorees, Madison and Ciara 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 2016.

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are Alabama’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Sydney Culverhouse, 14, of Opp, Ala., a freshman at Opp High
School, has raised more than $25,000 over the past five years designing
and selling T-shirts to support numerous causes, including Birmingham
Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Miracle Network and the Colon Cancer
Coalition. Sydney, who began “T-Shirts for a Cause” as a clothing drive
to provide clean shirts for the victims of the 2011 Alabama tornadoes,
plans to continue designing and selling fundraising T-shirts well into
the future.

Amerie Gramelspacher, 18, of Thomasville, Ala., a senior at
Thomasville High School, partnered with the American Foundation for
Suicide Prevention to assist her with a suicide awareness project that
included a 5K, presentations to encourage teacher training, suicide
hotline signage at her school, and literature and resources at her
school’s counseling office. Amerie, who lost an aunt to suicide,
recruited her National Honor Society chapter to help with the 5K, which
raised $1,600 that went toward the purchase of a suicide prevention
curriculum that is now being taught quarterly at her school.

Israel Mason, 13, of Bessemer, Ala., an eighth-grader at John
Herbert Phillips Academy, has been actively volunteering at the Foundry
Dental Clinic for the past three years, helping to check in patients and
schedule appointments. Israel also volunteers at the Foundry Outreach
Center, where she helps to serve meals, distribute food and assist with
other tasks.

Caitlyn McTier, 16, of Sylacauga, Ala., a junior at Sylacauga
High School, began a hunger prevention program called “Caitlyn’s Cubby,”
partnering with Alabama Childhood Food Solutions to provide students
with backpacks filled with food for the weekends. Caitlyn, who has
raised $5,000 to purchase the string backpacks for the program, is also
raising awareness about the hunger problem both in Alabama and
throughout America.

“Prudential commends each of these young volunteers for using their
creativity and compassion to bring positive change to their
communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope
their stories inspire others to consider how they can make a difference,

“We are pleased to honor these students not only for their exemplary
acts of service, but for the powerful example they’ve set for their
peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP.
“Congratulations to each of the 2016 honorees.”

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

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 2, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high
school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2016.
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 on behalf of President Barack Obama.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community
State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the
leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school
principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the
United States and 35 countries around the world. The association
connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research,
education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school
leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school
leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality
professional learning experiences. 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 Association of Student Councils.
For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit

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

Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards
program logo and medallions, click here:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, (973) 802-8974 or (973) 216-4833