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

Hot Springs and Texarkana students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Rogers, Fayetteville and

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Katelyn Bondhus, 18, of Hot Springs and Shelby Dunphy-Day, 12, of
Texarkana today were named Arkansas’ top two youth volunteers of 2016 by
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring
young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Katelyn was nominated
by Hot Springs High School in Hot Springs, and Shelby was nominated by
College Hill Middle School Academy of Design in Texarkana. 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).

Katelyn, a senior at Hot Springs High School, volunteers with other
young people in her church to serve the less fortunate in her community
and state, including working on home improvement and maintenance
projects, serving lunch to the homeless, and supporting animal welfare
efforts. It began in seventh grade when Katelyn learned through her
church about the Ozark Mission Project (OMP), a series of weeklong
summer youth camps held at locations around Arkansas to help individuals
and families in need of minor construction and yard work. When she
signed up, “I was just doing it because I was told community service
looked good on high school applications,” she said. “After attending one
week of the program, I realized why people love to volunteer.”

For the next several years, Katelyn devoted a “very taxing” week each
summer to OMP. “It is full of hard work,” she said, “building wheelchair
ramps, painting the insides and outsides of houses, and doing yard
work.” But she found it to be such “an amazing, life-changing
experience,” she recruited all of her closest friends to participate as
well. “I learned that volunteering brings joy to both volunteer and
recipient of the work,” she said. As a result, Katelyn has made it a
priority to get involved in other community service activities. During
the summer, she and other members of her church’s youth group package
and serve food to homeless people at a community crisis center. They
also help with painting, cleanup and Humane Society projects during
designated church service days.

Shelby, a sixth-grader at College Hill Middle School Academy of Design,
planned two “six-leg” races in downtown Texarkana for dog owners and
their pets to raise money for a local animal care and adoption center.
When Shelby was a first-grader, the animal shelter brought some puppies
and kittens to her school. “I remember asking why they were in the
shelter, and what would happen to them,” said Shelby. “The answer I
received was heartbreaking.” She decided that day that she wanted to
help save animals’ lives. Her first step was to hold a raffle that
raised $250 to buy dog food for the shelter, and she has been
volunteering for the shelter ever since.

To prepare for her “Six Leg Fun Run & 5K,” Shelby researched races in
other communities, mapped out routes, obtained approval and grants from
the two Texarkana municipal governments, made presentations to students
and community leaders, built a website, and assembled an event committee
of six adults. In addition to the two races, Shelby planned a pet
contest and a promotion for animal adoption as part of her event, which
she hopes will become an annual affair. “Really, there’s only one reason
I’m putting this race on,” said Shelby. “It isn’t to get a better grade
in school, or because someone is making me do it. It is only because I
want to help get the animals in the shelter adopted.”

As State Honorees, Katelyn and Shelby 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 Arkansas students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Arkansas’ Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Jeffrey (Jake) Gearhart, 16, of Rogers, Ark., a junior at Shiloh
Christian School, co-founded “Soles for Souls” with his friend Molly in
early 2015, and held shoe drives in three area cities that collected
2,372 pairs of shoes to benefit men, women and children in need through
“Mission of Hope: Haiti.” Jake, who went on a mission trip to Haiti and
saw firsthand the need for shoes, plans to host shoe drives every year.

Molly Hedberg, 17, of Rogers, Ark., a junior at Bentonville High
School, co-founded “Soles for Souls” with her friend Jake in January of
2015, and held shoe drives that collected 2,372 pairs of shoes to
benefit men, women and children in need through “Mission of Hope:
Haiti.” Molly created a Facebook page, a project logo, and brochures to
promote the program, and also identified sponsors who donated boxes for
shipping the shoes to Haiti.

Gable Sloan, 10, of Fayetteville, Ark., a fifth-grader at McNair
Middle School, has raised more than $2,300 selling her home-baked goods
in a curbside bakery service she debuted in the summer of 2015, and
donated all the proceeds to a variety of local and national charities.
Gable, who wanted to turn her passion for baking into a way to help
others, has donated the funds to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Feed
Fayetteville, 7 Hills Homeless Shelter and The Malala Fund.

Maraye Tudor, 16, of Stuttgart, Ark., a junior at Stuttgart High
School, has donated more than 300 of her homemade pillows to local
foster children through an organization she calls “Pillows With A
Purpose.” Maraye, who made and sold 300 pillows with her logo and a
Bible verse printed on them, used the $1,000 she earned to make and
donate the pillows for the foster children as a message of love and hope.

“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