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

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

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Winslow and Rockport

AUGUSTA, Maine–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Connor Archer, 17, of Stillwater and Benjamin Levesque, 14, of Lyman
today were named Maine’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. Connor was nominated
by Old Town High School in Old Town, and Benjamin was nominated by
Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro. 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).

Connor, a senior at Old Town High School, works to educate the public
about autism and the challenges faced by people with autism like
himself, and has raised more than $12,000 for organizations that help
people with special needs. Connor was diagnosed with autism when he was
3 years old. Luckily, he said, his parents were tireless advocates for
him and searched until they found a preschool that could help him
develop his full potential. As he grew older, he wanted to give back to
the school that had helped him so much, so he created “sensory learning
gardens” for the children there. In 2014, Connor decided he wanted to do
more for kids with special needs and founded “The Courageous Steps

The project’s initial event was a walk-run fundraiser to benefit local
schools that help children with special needs. The first one raised
nearly $4,000, and a second one brought in more than $6,000. Other
fundraising activities, such as a benefit dinner at a local restaurant,
have pushed Connor’s total to more than $12,000. Much of that money has
been donated to benefit organizations that have played a key role in
Connor’s own development, and other groups that work with kids with
autism. Connor also has awarded scholarships to three graduating seniors
who have overcome their own challenges, purchased iPads and a sound
system for his former preschool, and conducted two drives to collect
supplies for area schools. “Strong communities begin with individuals
who have the support to take their own courageous steps,” he said.

Benjamin, an eighth-grader at Massabesic Junior High School, has been
involved for the past three years in a variety of service projects in
his community through the Boy Scouts and his school. His first foray
into community service occurred when Benjamin contacted his town hall
and asked if he could volunteer at the local cemetery. With help from
the head of the cemetery committee, Benjamin replaced tattered flags on
veterans’ graves with new ones, and removed debris from the cemetery

Working with his Boy Scout troop, he also helped clean up a local
shopping area, facilitate community dinners, construct a sandbox at a
local elementary school and promote healthy lifestyles for young people.
To teach his classmates about climate change, Benjamin created
wall-sized murals and maps to illustrate the problem. “I feel that these
actions have positively impacted my community, and I’m honored to have
participated,” said Benjamin.

As State Honorees, Connor and Benjamin 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 two other Maine students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Maine’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Alyssa Burbank, 15, of Winslow, Maine, a freshman at Winslow High
School, began volunteering weekly at the welcome desk at Thayer Hospital
in the summer of 2015. Alyssa also volunteers for special events at the
hospital, including Cancer Survivor Day, for which she helped distribute
event T-shirts to cancer survivors and their families.

Harper Gordon, 17, of Rockport, Maine, a senior at Camden Hills
Regional High School, performs classical music concerts monthly with her
brothers for the residents of a local nursing home. Harper, a passionate
community volunteer who is involved with many volunteer organizations
and projects, began playing in the concerts when she was two years old.

“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