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

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

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Fargo

BISMARCK, N.D.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lauryn Hinckley, 16, of Bismarck and Evan Knoll, 11, of Fargo today were
named North Dakota’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. Lauryn was nominated by Century
High School in Bismarck, and Evan was nominated by YMCA of Cass and Clay
Counties in Fargo. 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).

Lauryn, a sophomore at Century High School, has collected more than
7,600 pounds of peanut butter and jelly over the past five years to help
feed 500 children in her area who don’t have enough to eat on weekends.
Lauryn will never forget a scene she witnessed in the grocery store when
she was 9 years old. “There was a family in front of me with a grocery
cart half full of food, most of which had to be put back on the shelves
because their mom didn’t have enough money to pay for it,” she said. “I
could not believe that kids my own age were going hungry.” Lauryn
decided to hold a food drive to help.

Since then, Lauryn’s peanut butter and jelly drive has become an annual
event in her community. This past year, 20 local schools, eight
businesses and five bank branches participated. To prepare for her
drive, Lauryn spoke to school principals and businesses, shared a blog
she wrote on hunger, and sought interviews with the media. She then
designed posters, fliers and T-shirts, and alerted store managers so
they could stock enough peanut butter and jelly. Next, Lauryn and about
20 volunteers distributed collection boxes and advertising materials.
After the drive, she and her crew picked up and sorted the donated food,
and delivered it to United Way, which used it to help fill backpacks
sent home with kids in need for the weekend. “It only takes $5 to feed a
hungry child on the weekend, and I have been able to help feed over 500
kids for 10 weeks in the last five years,” Lauryn said. “My goal is to
feed these kids the entire school year!”

Evan, a fifth-grader at Park Christian School, has been volunteering
since he was 3 years old at a local homeless center. Evan comes from a
family of volunteers. “My inspiration is my mom because when she was
younger she served our community and wanted me to have the same
understanding of how good it is to help others so I can appreciate all
my blessings,” he said.

Once a month during the school year, Evan works at a homeless shelter in
a variety of capacities. He helps prepare and serve meals, stocks
shelves and organizes the pantry, plays games and reads stories to young
children there, and sorts and hangs clothes donated for the shelter’s
Dress for Success program. He also has packed bags containing warm
socks, gloves and toiletries to hand out to residents, and has shopped
for and delivered Christmas presents to them. In addition, Evan has
helped his family raise funds to provide housing for the homeless in
Fargo, volunteered at a summer church camp on an Indian reservation, and
participated in the planting and maintenance of two community gardens to
promote healthy eating.

As State Honorees, Lauryn and Evan 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 North Dakota students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are North Dakota’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Neelay Patel, 17, of Fargo, N.D., a junior at Davies High School,
has raised $500 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association while also
volunteering at the organization, answering phones and doing basic
office work. Neelay has also volunteered with the North Dakota Special
Olympics, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, and at the hospital Essentia
Health, where he spent two summers working in the gift shop, the mail
room, and in patient education.

Nathaniel Thoreson, 17, of Fargo, N.D., a senior at Davies High
School, co-founded “Quilt for a Cure” in 2012 and has helped to raise
$9,000 to help make and distribute 400 handmade quilts with messages of
hope to cancer patients and veterans. Nathaniel, who has many relatives
who have experienced cancer, has also helped start his school’s Leo
Club, and serves as a representative for student councils in North
Dakota, for which he helped organize a statewide student council food

“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