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

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

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Grayslake, Deerfield,
Harrisburg, Naperville, Woodridge, Wheaton, Loves Park and Inverness

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jungin Angie Lee, 17, of Naperville and Nicolas Ramkumar, 14, of
Champaign today were named Illinois’ top two youth volunteers of 2016 by
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring
young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Angie was nominated
by Metea Valley High School in Aurora, and Nicolas was nominated by
Franklin Middle School in Champaign. 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

Angie, a junior at Metea Valley High School, co-founded a nonprofit
organization that has generated nearly $200,000 over the past nine years
through annual fundraising events to help find a cure for her rare
neuromuscular disease. When she was 15 months old, Angie was diagnosed
with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder that causes
debilitating and often fatal muscle weakness. In second grade, she made
friends with a girl who, upon learning that Angie would never be able to
walk, wanted to do something to help. So together they started a
nonprofit called “Angie’s Hope” to raise money for SMA research.

The two friends first set out to raise $200 with a penny drive. Then,
every year they organized another fundraising event, including garage
sales, pasta parties, and most recently a “big ball” soccer tournament.
Thirty teams of 8-12 players each compete in this wheelchair-friendly
tournament, which also features a disc jockey, photo booth, concessions,
cheerleaders, a capella groups, raffles and a silent auction. In
addition to coordinating and playing in the tournament, Angie has sought
support from local businesses, created promotional videos, and managed a
website. In 2015 alone, Angie’s Hope raised nearly $40,000 for the
national organization Cure SMA. These efforts demonstrate “how huge a
difference individuals can make when they combine efforts,” she said,
and have become “a way for our small community to unite to make a

Nicolas, an eighth-grader at University of Illinois High School, has
raised nearly $10,000 over the past two years to purchase laptop
computers for his school, with the goal of giving every student access
to his or her own machine. “I always try to help whenever I can, and I
was taught to always give back,” said Nicolas. In fourth grade, he
organized a drive that collected 300 pairs of shoes for people in need.
He knocked on doors to seek donations for earthquake victims in Haiti.
In addition, he has planted “pollinator-friendly” gardens at home, and
at a school and a church.

When Nicolas arrived at Franklin Middle School, he saw the impact his
older brother made by raising $1,500 to help the school buy 30 Google
Chromebooks. “I saw firsthand how much the computers helped other
students and myself, so I decided to expand the fundraising,” he said.
Over the past two years, Nicolas asked friends and family members for
donations, contacted other potential donors, knocked on doors in his
neighborhood, sought sponsorships from local businesses, and ran in a 5k
race to fund the purchase of more school laptops. So far, Nicolas has
helped his school acquire a total of 360 computers for its 659 students,
a majority of whom come from low-income families. “The school is more
than halfway to achieving the goal of one-to-one computing,” he said.

As State Honorees, Angie and Nicolas 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 eight other Illinois students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Illinois’ Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

William Bauman, 16, of Grayslake, Ill., a sophomore at Grayslake
North High School, created an awareness project aimed at teaching about
the dangers of distracted driving after being involved in a fender
bender where the driver was reading a text. William also created a
campaign called “On the Road to Safe Driving” that teaches children and
teenagers about pedestrian, bicycle and driver safety, and is working
with youth from India on a campaign called “Safer Roads Safer India.”

Annika Huprikar, 13, of Deerfield, Ill., an eighth-grader at Alan
B. Shepard Middle School, co-founded “Music is Medicine,” a project that
involves her and her brother conducting musical performances for
patients with memory disorders at care centers in the area. Annika
founded the program along with her brother in 2014, and since then the
two play piano concerts and arrange for other guest musicians to perform
at least twice monthly.

Callie Oxford, 15, of Harrisburg, Ill., a member of Saline County
4-H and a freshman at Harrisburg High School, began a personal mission
in 2014 called “PASS IT ON” to conduct a service project once every
month. Since beginning her campaign on National Pay it Forward Day in
April 2014, Callie has visited nursing home patients, left scarves and
gloves around town for those in need to take, raised awareness for the
chronic illness lupus, and launched a get well card campaign for a child
waiting for a heart transplant.

Trisha Prabhu, 15, of Naperville, Ill., a sophomore at Neuqua
Valley High School, conducted extensive research to develop and test
“ReThink,” an application that aims to prevent cyberbullying by alerting
a user that an intended social post could cause harm to someone. Trisha,
who developed the application after hearing of a young girl’s suicide
due to cyberbullying, has made the app free to the thousands who
downloaded it so far, and has created a sister program called “ReThink
Ambassadors,” which uses young advocates to encourage their peers to
embrace a “ReThink” attitude in order to promote positive cyber

Bianca Spalla, 16, of Woodridge, Ill., a junior at North High
School, founded “Bianca’s Backpack Fundraiser” in 2011, for which she
raises funds to purchase backpacks and school supplies to benefit
children in need at local schools. Bianca, who has raised $15,000 and
provided more than 400 backpacks over the years, has also created
“Project Playground,” a project involving a committee of dedicated
volunteers who raise the funds to improve the outdated playgrounds at
two local schools.

Elizabeth Spurlock, 17, of Wheaton, Ill., a junior at Wheaton
North High School, has raised nearly $10,000 by selling sneakers that
she hand-paints with athletic team logos through her project, “Kustom
Team Kicks.” Elizabeth, who has sold 250 pairs of sneakers in the past
two years, donates a percentage of all sneaker sales to benefit two
charities, one that promotes pediatric cancer research and one that
promotes animal welfare.

Jessica Trinh, 17, of Loves Park, Ill., a senior at Auburn High
School, became a passionate volunteer for the Down Syndrome Awareness
Center “GiGi’s Playhouse,” for which she interviewed participants and
created a promotional video and a comprehensive marketing campaign
called “I’m A Person First.” In addition, Jessica initiated a collection
drive that resulted in $1,354 worth of personal care items, and is
chairing a charity event planned for the spring of 2016 to benefit the

Medha Verma, 17, of Inverness, Ill., a senior at Barrington High
School, has raised $7,000 since 2011 by making and selling custom
dresses to support her “Beads of Courage Program,” for which pediatric
patients at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland receive
beads for every medical procedure they endure. Medha, who conceived of
the program while volunteering at the hospital and witnessing the pain
many children go through, secured sponsors to offset the cost of
materials, and has partnered with crafters in India to help her make the

“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