Glen Allen and Virginia Beach students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Virginia Beach,
Spotsylvania, South Riding, Midlothian and Alexandria
RICHMOND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Reshini Premaratne, 17, of Glen Allen and Chase Anthony, 13, of Virginia
Beach today were named Virginia’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. Reshini was nominated
by Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence/HandsOn Greater Richmond in
Richmond, and Chase was nominated by Princess Anne Middle School in
Virginia Beach. 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).
Reshini, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor School, founded a youth
service organization in 2010 that has raised $10,000 for the homeless,
donated more than 450 pounds of goods, and spread to more than 20
schools throughout Virginia. Six years ago, Reshini volunteered to make
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her city’s homeless, and
discovered that many of the perceptions she’d had about homeless people
were wrong. “Many students, especially those that live in the suburbs,
are not exposed to the homeless on a daily basis,” she said. With her
new appreciation for the plight of homeless people, Reshini resolved to
“help my community see beyond their own misconceptions, too,” she said.
Reshini’s organization, “X-Out Homeless,” started with a one-day event
at her middle school that focused attention on the issue of homelessness
both locally and nationally. Since then, she has organized a wide
variety of fund- and awareness-raising activities, including charity
figure skating shows, a special “homelessness week” at schools, and
events at local businesses. In addition, Reshini started a program last
spring that brings together high school students and homeless
individuals to learn computer programming and “to foster a community of
trust, tolerance and understanding,” she said.
Chase, a seventh-grader at Princess Anne Middle School, launched a
fundraising drive three years ago that has yielded more than $30,000 to
battle breast cancer, after his third-grade teacher was diagnosed with
the disease. When Chase found out about his teacher’s illness, he
decided to ask for monetary donations instead of gifts on his 10th
birthday. Sadly, his teacher died the month before. “She was a great
teacher who taught me to never ever give up,” said Chase. So he didn’t.
After collecting his initial funds at his birthday party, he began
organizing events to raise more money for a regional affiliate of the
Susan G. Komen Foundation. With the help of up to 20 friends at six
different schools, Chase has operated lemonade stands, held car washes,
conducted raffles, sold T-shirts, and started an annual dodgeball
tournament. Last year, he got his whole school to celebrate a “pink day”
in support of his campaign, complete with a “pink” pep rally and a
“pink” football game. Chase said he gets joy out of helping others and
trying to make his late teacher proud.
As State Honorees, Reshini and Chase 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 Virginia students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Virginia’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Justice Baird, 17, of Virginia Beach, Va., a senior at Landstown
High School, serves as class president and has been actively involved in
student government since his freshman year, holding positions including
student council treasurer and vice president, and Virginia SCA Region 2
Representative. Justice, who has been inspired to give back by the help
his family received when he lost his home to fire, has helped his school
raise $35,000 in the past four years to support a number of projects
while also coordinating his school’s leadership conference.
Anna Gleason, 16, of Spotsylvania, Va., a junior at Riverbend
High School, founded “Kids for Shelter” in 2010, a charity that has
helped local animal shelters by collecting more than 1,000 pounds of dog
food and other supplies and raising $2,500 through activities including
Christmas caroling and selling homemade dog biscuits. Anna, whose
brothers and friends joined in the club to help, has also helped to
raise $10,000 to support the international disaster relief charity
Shelterbox by hosting a readathon.
Austin Haycox, 18, of Virginia Beach, Va., a senior at Norfolk
Academy, has raised $42,000 to support 175 cleft lip and palate
operations for Operation Smile by hosting “SUP for Smiles,” a stand up
paddle board yoga event in 2015. Austin, who has volunteered for the
organization since the first grade and attended an Operation Smile trip
to China where she helped educate families about the surgery, is also
president of her school’s Operation Smile Happy Club, which raised an
Jahnavi Murthy, 12, of South Riding, Va., a seventh-grader at J.
Michael Lunsford Middle School, has helped to raise $24,000 since 2014
to support an organization she co-founded with her brother called “Feed
Hungry People,” which packs 10,000 nonperishable meals every month and
distributes them to impoverished areas in Zambia, Panama, Haiti and the
Philippines. Jahnavi and her brother work closely with the organization
Stop Hunger Now to provide the raw materials for the meal packs and
helps to distribute them.
Ally Smith, 17, of Midlothian, Va., a senior at Midlothian High
School, was 7 years old when her grandfather’s cancer diagnosis drove
her to start “Ally’s Fight Cancer Fund,” for which she has raised more
than $23,000 to support clinical trials and cancer research at Massey
Cancer Center. Ally, who started out by selling popsicles and hosting
bake sales, now hosts more elaborate fundraisers including breast cancer
awareness volleyball, softball and baseball games at her school,
complete with raffle prizes and contests.
Samantha Underwood, 13, of Alexandria, Va., a seventh-grader at
Mark Twain Middle School, founded “Kids Sending Smiles” in 2011, a
nonprofit organization that has raised $10,000 to support hurricane and
tornado victims in the United States, raise money for breast cancer
research and build a recreation and study room at an orphanage in Peru.
Samantha, who recruited 10 friends and holds regular meetings to choose
causes and plan activities, has raised the funds through bake sales, car
washes, lemonade stands and a silent auction/restaurant night.
“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