Shorewood and Manitowoc students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Pewaukee, Appleton, De
Pere, Prairie du Chien, Milwaukee and Oconomowoc
MADISON, Wis.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ananya Murali, 17, of Shorewood and Luke Smith, 13, of Manitowoc today
were named Wisconsin’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. Ananya was nominated
by Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast in Milwaukee, and Luke was
nominated by Wilson Junior High School in Manitowoc. 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).
Ananya, a senior at Shorewood High School, designed and conducted an
educational leadership camp to teach more than 100 middle school girls
life skills and strategies to stand up against bullying and other forms
of aggression in school. Ananya became interested in that subject when
her family experienced harassment and discrimination after moving from
India to the U.S. “They started smashing our car windshields and tires
and saying ‘Go back to your country, we don’t want you here,’” said
Ananya. She did some research and learned that bullying is a huge
problem in schools, especially for minority children. “I was determined
to take action,” she said.
With $2,000 in grant money and the help of several dozen youth and adult
volunteers, Ananya developed an anti-bulling/leadership curriculum and
then organized a camp at a local middle school called “Step-Up Against
Bullying and Violence.” The more than 100 girls in attendance heard
national and local speakers, took part in group discussions and
team-building activities, learned peace songs written by Ananya and
participated in a yoga session. Since then, Ananya has conducted her
camp at other schools, Girl Scout gatherings, Native American
reservations, an international youth peace conference and five schools
in India. Because of her efforts, Ananya was invited to be a delegate
and speaker at the United Nation’s 59th Commission on the Status of
Luke, a seventh-grader at Wilson Junior High School, raises awareness of
people with special needs, promotes inclusion through speeches in his
community, and helped raise money to build a rubberized baseball field
and an all-accessible playground for children with and without
disabilities. He also is an avid volunteer for the local Humane Society.
Luke, who has autism, was bullied when he was in elementary school
because he was different. But instead of making him withdrawn and
fearful, the experience motivated Luke to stand up for victims of
bullying and prove his ability to make a difference in his town.
Luke began his volunteer work at the Humane Society, where he helped
with fundraisers, brought in supplies and fostered special-needs animals
because “no one understands like me what it is to be different.” After
hearing about the Miracle League and its desire to build a special
baseball field and playground that children with special needs could
use, he gave public presentations to raise money and awareness for the
project, recruited players and coaches for games, and was chosen to sing
the National Anthem at the field. To combat bullying, Luke gives
speeches to promote universal acceptance, and personally stands up when
he sees someone being mistreated.
As State Honorees, Ananya and Luke 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 Wisconsin students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Wisconsin’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Kirsten Cutler, 12, of Pewaukee, Wis., a seventh-grader at Asa
Clark Middle School, worked with two friends to hold a fundraising event
at their school that raised $6,546 for ALS research, after the mother of
a close friend died from the disease. Kirsten and her collaborators
recruited a team of 15 volunteers to help gather gift baskets for a
raffle, organized a bake sale and worked with local businesses on a
scavenger hunt for the event, with proceeds going to the Wisconsin
chapter of the ALS Association.
Katrina Mazier, 17, of Appleton, Wis., a senior at Xavier High
School, has become a passionate advocate for suicide prevention, working
closely with the National Suicide Awareness Center and other experts to
prepare presentations for churches, community groups and local schools.
Katrina also created the informational and inspirational Facebook page
“Teens of Tomorrow,” raised $500 to support the Catalpa Health, a
pediatric mental health clinic, and recruited 25 volunteers to make and
donate blankets to young patients in the adolescent mental health unit
at St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Carter Olles, 16, of De Pere, Wis., a junior at Notre Dame Baie
Academy, created the nonprofit organization “Bright Young Dyslexics”
with his sister in 2013, and has since helped to raise $30,000 to
provide tutoring and assistive technology to children with dyslexia
throughout Wisconsin. Carter, whose sister was diagnosed with dyslexia
when she was in the third grade, has also installed resource centers in
area libraries to assist families with recently diagnosed children in
getting all the information they need to help their children be better
prepared for success.
Payton Petsche, 17, of Prairie du Chien, Wis., a senior at
Prairie du Chien High School, has been actively volunteering in her
community since she was 8 years old by donating clothes to those in
need, shoveling snow for others, and participating in fundraising events
like the Relay for Life. Payton, inspired to volunteer when she realized
some children do not have food or proper clothing, also volunteers at
the local nursing home.
Paolo Valle, 16, of Milwaukee, Wis., a junior at St. Thomas More
High School, has attended mission trips with his church for the past
three years, for which he has helped to paint homes. Paolo, who has been
to South Dakota, Iowa and Pennsylvania, also helps to build ramps and
encourage people to strengthen their faith.
Madison Zepnick, 17, of Oconomowoc, Wis., a senior at Oconomowoc
High School, founded “The Homeless Project” in 2012 in California’s
Riverside County, where she used to live, for which she raised $1,500
and collected and packed hygiene products, food, cards, socks and hats
for up to 200 of the area’s homeless each year. Madison, who recruited a
crew of volunteers to continue the program when she moved to Wisconsin,
is in the process of starting the program in her new hometown.
“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