Forsyth and Kirbyville students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Eldon, Jonesburg, Kansas
City, Warrensburg, Brentwood and Urbana
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Brooke Hale, 18, of Forsyth and Kera Mingus, 12, of Kirbyville today
were named Missouri’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. Brooke was nominated by Forsyth
High School in Forsyth, and Kera was nominated by Forsyth Middle School
in Forsyth. 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).
Brooke, a senior at Forsyth High School, is the co-founder and executive
director of a free after-school arts program that has been offering
weekly classes in musical theatre to elementary and middle level
students in her school district for the past four years. As a child,
Brooke had to travel 20 miles to Branson, Mo., for singing, dancing and
acting lessons. “There were no artistic extracurricular activities at my
school for students in elementary and middle school, which forced me to
outsource for instruction in the arts,” she said. When her older brother
proposed that they address that need, Brooke was quick to take up the
Together, the two siblings met with school administrators to plan a
program called “Art to the Third,” presented the plan to the school
board, recruited staff members and high school students to help, and
secured funding from the Branson Arts Council. Classes are now taught
weekly at the Forsyth Performing Arts Center and include such
specialized disciplines as tap dancing, vocal technique, script writing,
improvisation and stage combat. In addition, students perform throughout
the year at various events in the Forsyth/Branson community, and a
musical is produced at the culmination of the spring semester. About 70
students have taken part in the program so far. “There is nothing more
gratifying than sharing your passion with others and seeing the lights
you spark in other people’s lives,” said Brooke.
Kera, a seventh-grader at Forsyth Middle School, raised more than
$11,000 during the first three years of her fundraising campaign to find
a cure for juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), a rare autoimmune disease
that attacks her muscles and skin. “I know what it is like to be sick
and not be able to have a doctor tell you what is wrong,” said Kera. “I
am trying to prevent other children from going through what I went
Kera wanted to find a fundraising project that her whole family could
take part in. After deciding on a mini-golf tournament, she enlisted the
cooperation of a local mini-golf course, recruited sponsors for each
hole, and asked local businesses to donate prizes. She also promoted the
event through emails, the news media and the website of the Cure JM
Foundation. Kera repeated the event the following year, and in 2014, she
hosted a raffle and ran a concession stand at flag football games.
Kera’s activities have not only raised awareness of a rare disease, but
have made important contributions to the research efforts of the Cure JM
Foundation. “I’ve learned that I can do something positive with having a
disease, and that I don’t have to feel sorry for myself,” she said.
As State Honorees, Brooke and Kera 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.
The program judges also recognized six other Missouri students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Missouri’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Crystal Diebold, 18, of Eldon, Mo., a senior at Eldon High
School, has been a volunteer with Daybreak Rotary since 2007, and in
that time has helped the organization with its two annual fundraisers,
helping to decorate, set up, man the table and sell raffle tickets.
Crystal also volunteered at the Rotary’s Camp Wonderland for kids with
disabilities, and at Candyland, a local program that provides Christmas
gifts to children in need.
Taylor Lauer, 18, of Jonesburg, Mo., a senior at Montgomery
County High School, joined student council as a freshman and since then
has been an avid volunteer in many projects both at school and in the
community, including volunteering at school carnivals and blood drives
and participating in a polar bear plunge to raise money for Special
Olympics. Of her many volunteer activities, Taylor was most impacted by
helping to raise funds and pack food donations for a backpack food
program benefitting children experiencing hunger.
Kelly Nguyen, 17, of Kansas City, Mo., a senior at East High
School, has volunteered steadily for the past two summers with the youth
volunteer program at Truman Medical Center, where she has answered
phones, checked schedules, and transported patients. Kelly, who has
chosen to pursue a career in medicine after losing her father to a
motorcycle accident and her grandfather to a heart attack, also
volunteered last summer at Ronald McDonald House Charities, where she
helped to plant gardens and make meals for the guests.
Chance Riddle, 16, of Warrensburg, Mo., a junior at Warrensburg
High School, started volunteering in the sixth grade for his church’s
after school care program and continues to volunteer weekly helping the
teachers with their lessons. Chance, an active Boy Scout, has gone with
his church to various Native American reservations to help run summer
Yumino Sasaki, 18, of Brentwood, Mo., a senior at Brentwood High
School, volunteers almost every Saturday as a teacher at the St. Louis
Japanese School. Yumino, who attended the school and understands the
value of maintaining her Japanese culture, has volunteered for three
years at the school, first working with pre-schoolers and now working
Tyler Swearingin, 17, of Urbana, Mo., a senior at Skyline High
School, has been an active volunteer with the American Diabetes
Association for the past seven years, helping to raise $4,500 by
participating in the Walk to Stop Diabetes. Tyler, who draws his desire
to help those with diabetes from his own diagnosis with the chronic
disease, also serves as a counselor at a summer camp for children with
diabetes where he helps them to learn how to take care of themselves.
“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.
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 www.nassp.org.
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 www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards
program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
Harold Banks, (973) 802-8974 or (973) 216-4833