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

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

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Gaithersburg, Frederick,
Baltimore, Bel Air and Bethesda

ANNAPOLIS, Md.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Luke Pitsenbarger, 17, of Salisbury and Alyssa Gerhart, 12, of Waldorf
today were named Maryland’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. Luke was nominated by
Parkside High in Salisbury, and Alyssa was nominated by Benjamin
Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf. 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

Luke, a senior at Parkside High, repaired houses for people in need last
summer through the Appalachia Service Project, a Christian volunteer
organization that serves impoverished communities in the central
Appalachian Mountains. An active volunteer since he was in middle
school, Luke has contributed to his community in many ways, including
coaching at football camps, serving the homeless, and aiding people with
disabilities. “These experiences have been some of the most meaningful
moments so far in my life,” he said. So when the opportunity arose to go
with a church-sponsored group for a week to work in a poor town in
Virginia, he jumped at the chance.

At sunrise that first morning in Jonesville, Luke and his fellow
volunteers arrived at a decaying trailer home. Luke was stunned at the
poverty. “I could not believe my eyes! A myriad of tires were dispersed
amongst the garden. The back porch was crumbling. The dogs were running
after our van on the craterous driveway,” he said. The team unloaded
their tools, met the family and went to work demolishing the leaky roof
over the trailer and building a new one. “I noticed that, as the roof
progressed, so did the family’s spirits,” said Luke. He found the
experience so uplifting that he continues to work with the same group in
his hometown, where they have built a shelter for homeless men, served
meals at a soup kitchen, and installed a wheelchair ramp at the home of
a local handicapped person.

Alyssa, a seventh-grader at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, helps feed
up to 100 hungry people in her town each week by collecting food,
raising money, and working at the soup kitchen her mother co-founded
three years ago. When Our Place Waldorf was first being discussed,
Alyssa immediately wanted to get involved. She helped sign in attendees
at the initial organizing meetings, handed out information on the
proposal, and assisted during interviews with potential board members.
“I felt this was an important cause from the beginning because nobody
should have to go without food,” she said. “I had no idea how many
homeless and hungry people were living so close to where I live.”

After the soup kitchen opened in a local church, Alyssa began helping
her mother shop for food, cook, set tables, serve, clean up and even
fundraise. She also recruited fellow members of her school’s service
clubs to volunteer at the facility, participated in fundraising events,
and conducted drives to collect non-perishable food items to be sent
away with soup kitchen guests. Alyssa is currently helping to raise
money to find a permanent home for the soup kitchen so that it can open
its doors every day. “As we know, people aren’t hungry only one day a
week,” she said.

As State Honorees, Luke and Alyssa 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 six other Maryland students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Maryland’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Alexia Antonio, 12, of Gaithersburg, Md., a sixth-grader at
Lakelands Park Middle School, began volunteering to help her coach train
the pre-team swimmers on her swim team in May of 2015. Later that
summer, Alexia also volunteered with the Girl Scouts to help with the
arts and crafts exhibit at the Montgomery County Fair.

Jessica Bayuk, 17, of Frederick, Md., a senior at Frederick High
School, is a passionate bullying prevention advocate and, as Miss
Frederick’s Outstanding Teen for 2014 had the opportunity to speak to
more than 4,000 children at various schools and organizations about her
“Take a Stand” anti-bullying program. Jessica, who was bullied for many
years, created the presentation, partnered with the United Way to
increase her program outreach, and has planned and coordinated an event
called “Stand Together for Kindness.”

Rejjia Camphor, 17, of Baltimore, Md., a senior at Baltimore City
College, has been an active member of Youth as Resources, a youth-led
nonprofit organization that supports area youth in many ways. Rejjia,
who started working with the organization in 2012, has been elected to
serve the organization as a board member, vice president and committee
chair of the grant-making committee.

Lily Densmore, 12, of Baltimore, Md., a member of the Girl Scouts
of Central Maryland and a seventh-grader at A Beka Academy, made an
instructional video for The Blue Ribbon Project – Backpacks of Love, an
organization that provides backpacks with essentials for children in
foster care. In addition to the video, Lily is in the process of
collecting items to fill at least 500 backpacks that she hopes to donate
to the organization.

Caroline Hickam, 17, of Bel Air, Md., a senior at C. Milton
Wright High School, raised awareness of the dangers of heart disease
while also raising $5,000 to provide CPR training kits for the Harford
County Public School system by planning and hosting a percussion concert
featuring presentations by heart disease survivors. Caroline, who had
open heart surgery as an infant, spent 85 hours coordinating and
marketing the event, securing the venue, selling tickets, and serving as
emcee for the show.

Carolyn Hoover, 17, of Bethesda, Md., a senior at Walt Whitman
High School, helped to raise $135,000 for cancer research over the past
year by co-founding and organizing a walkathon at her school called
“Walk Away Cancer.” Carolyn, whose co-founder is a cancer survivor, also
co-chaired the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Committee at her school,
for which she helped organize a danceathon, a 5K race and a battle of
the bands.

“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