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

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

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Wakefield and Cumberland

PROVIDENCE, R.I.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Zachary Librizzi, 17, of Warwick and Sarah Coutu, 12, of Pawtucket today
were named Rhode Island’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. Zachary was nominated
by Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, and Sarah was nominated by St.
Cecilia School in Pawtucket. 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

Zachary, a senior at Saint Raphael Academy, has helped his family raise
more than $1 million for diabetes research through an annual charity
golf tournament, and has generated an additional $75,000 on his own by
leading a team each year in a fundraising walk. Zach, who was diagnosed
with Type 1 diabetes when he was 10 months old, was so sick of needle
injections by the time he was 2-1/2 that he tearfully pleaded with his
father to “take my diabetes away.” His parents responded by organizing a
golf tournament to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation (JDRF).

Within a few years, Zach began speaking at the event, addressing up to
200 tournament attendees about the need to cure diabetes. As he got
older, Zach took on an increasingly important role in the golf
tournament’s fundraising activities. He also led a walk team that has
raised funds for JDRF for the past 14 years, and has garnered additional
support for the foundation at hockey events. Zach has mentored newly
diagnosed children, too, as a camp counselor. “There might not be a cure
just yet, but many advances have taken place over the years and have
helped thousands of people with diabetes live their lives a little
easier,” he said. The funds he and his family have raised, he added, “I
know will help find a cure in my lifetime.”

Sarah, a sixth-grader at St. Cecilia School, makes and sells a variety
of craft items to buy supplies for animals at four privately funded
no-kill shelters. “I have always had a special passion for animals,”
said Sarah. “It’s so sad going into shelters and seeing so many animals
who are homeless and are alone in the world.” Since she also has been an
avid crafter all her life, Sarah decided she could combine her two
passions in a project she calls “Paws for Life.”

She began by asking her principal if she could sell some of her
creations at school. Soon, she was carting as many as five overflowing
bags to school everyday, containing homemade bracelets, necklaces,
earrings, headbands, throw pillows and cat and dog toys. Sarah also has
held raffles at school, requested donations instead of gifts on
birthdays, sold her crafts at community events, and opened an online
shop on Etsy.com. Working on her business for about 15 hours a week, she
so far has been able to purchase approximately $1,500 worth of supplies
for animal shelters. In addition, she organized an after-school club to
engage fellow students in ways to prevent animal abuse and homelessness.
“I believe I can change the world if I try hard enough,” said Sarah.

As State Honorees, Zachary and Sarah 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 Rhode Island students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Rhode Island’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Zach Ribas, 17, of Wakefield, R.I., a junior at South Kingstown
High School, is a volunteer emergency services provider for South County
Hospital and the Charlestown Ambulance Rescue, as well as a volunteer
member of the National Ski Patrol and Union Fire District. Zach, who
began training for his numerous volunteer positions in 2013 and has also
helped to raise $4,500 to support the programs, transports patients,
assists medical personnel, and responds to fire calls and other

Robbie Thorp, 18, of Cumberland, R.I., a senior at Cumberland
High School, has helped to raise $10,000 to support epilepsy research as
the co-chair of the Rhode Island Walk for Epilepsy since 2013. Robbie,
who was diagnosed with three types of epilepsy when he was 10 years old,
has also coordinated epilepsy awareness activities at his school and in
his town, and advocates for people with epilepsy in the nation’s capital
as Rhode Island’s Teen Advocate and the New England Teen Epilepsy

“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 http://spirit.prudential.com
or www.nassp.org/spirit.


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:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, (973) 802-8974 or (973) 216-4833