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

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

Distinguished Finalists also named in Omaha and Lincoln

LINCOLN, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–My’Kah Knowlin, 14, of Lincoln and Golden Kelly, 13, of Omaha today were
named Nebraska’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. My’Kah was nominated by Lincoln
High School in Lincoln, and Golden was nominated by Russell Middle
School in Omaha. 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).

My’Kah, a freshman at Lincoln High School, formed a network of student
role models and mentors at nine schools throughout Nebraska to help stop
bullying and support victims. After years of being bullied herself,
My’Kah believed that the only way to stop it was to commit suicide. “I
couldn’t see any other way out,” she said. But she was lucky enough to
have a strong support system, and instead resolved to provide other
victims of bullying with the support she had benefited from. “I want to
make sure that no one feels suicide is their only choice, but to know
there are others out there who want to stand beside them and help them
get through the hard times,” said My’Kah.

Because she felt that sharing personal stories of bullying would be key
to helping other victims, My’Kah named her initiative “My STORIES,”
which is also an acronym for “Students Teaching Others Respect,
Independence, Empowerment and Strength.” She began recruiting students
in her school and other schools to reach out to kids being bullied,
offer to stand beside them, teach them how to document and report
incidents, and bolster their self-respect. In one instance, My’Kah
intervened directly to help save a young girl from taking her own life.
“I may not be able to protect all students,” she said, “but I will stand
up to those I see trying to hurt others, and I will continue to educate
those who want to help.”

Golden, a seventh-grader at Russell Middle School, has personally raised
nearly $14,000 for the American Cancer Society over the past nine years
as co-captain of a team participating annually in the society’s Relay
for Life fundraiser. Goldie became aware of cancer at a very young age.
She watched a friend battle a brain tumor, and saw three grandparents
diagnosed with malignant melanoma. So by the time she was just 4 years
old, Goldie wanted to help fight the disease by forming a fundraising
team with her sister.

Goldie has raised more than $1,000 every year with her Relay for Life
activities. She has sold clothing and toys at garage sales, sold
lemonade and cookies, and marketed headbands and flip-flops throughout
the year. She also has asked for donations rather than gifts on her
birthday, and has twice donated her hair to make wigs for cancer
patients. In addition, Goldie participates in a walk for juvenile
diabetics, and plays bingo at least once a month with residents of a
retirement home. “I love to give and make people smile,” she said.

As State Honorees, My’Kah and Golden 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 Nebraska students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Nebraska’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Grace Kelly, 18, of Omaha, Neb., a senior at Millard West High
School, is the president of her school’s Health Occupation Students of
America chapter, and has helped to organize numerous blood drives to
support the American Red Cross. Grace, who wants to pursue a career in
medicine, has also been an active participant in the American Cancer
Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser since she was 9 years old, raising
$15,165 to help fund cancer research.

Tabitha Staehr, 18, of Lincoln, Neb., a senior at Lincoln
Southwest High School, founded the “Schuyler Peterson Toy Drive
Foundation” in 2009 to honor the memory of her best friend Schuyler, and
has since collected and distributed more than 2,500 toys to children in
need. Tabitha, who hosts annual birthday celebrations on Schuyler’s
birthday where she asks attendees to bring toy donations, also hosts an
annual Christmas party for which she recruits volunteers to help with
tasks including collecting, sorting and wrapping gifts for children.

“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