TWO MAINE YOUTH HONORED FOR VOLUNTEERISM AT NATIONAL AWARD CEREMONY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Maine’s top two youth volunteers of 2015, Meghan Charest, 17, of Falmouth and Kevin Ayotte, 14, of Madawaska, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 20th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Meghan and Kevin – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Meghan and Kevin Maine’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Meghan, a junior at Falmouth High School, provides people in need in her community with fresh, organic produce through her community garden, which yields about 500 pounds of food per year for the Falmouth Food Pantry. Meghan was inspired to start her garden after volunteering at the food pantry and seeing how little fresh produce was available. “I wanted to find a sustainable, effective way to provide healthier foods for the people using the food pantry,” she said.
After gaining the approval of food pantry coordinators, Meghan researched which crops have high yields. She then found several people willing to donate space for a garden; secured a grant to buy gardening equipment; and spoke at schools, Girl Scout meetings and clubs to recruit volunteers. She and her team went to work planting, watering, weeding, harvesting produce and making weekly deliveries to the food pantry. After a while, Meghan enlisted the help of a master gardener who taught her more about growing healthy food. She moved her operation to a larger garden, and began using social media to recruit more volunteers. She also began raising money to maintain the garden by setting up fundraising tables at garden centers. Today, Meghan’s garden is the primary source of fresh produce for the food pantry, which serves about 900 people in her community. “Through organizing, coordinating and working in the garden, I have been fortunate to realize the power, strength and grace that come with helping others,” said Meghan.
Kevin, an eighth-grader at Madawaska Middle/High School, volunteers to perform a wide variety of important jobs during both the winter and summer months for the Four Seasons Trail Association in Madawaska. A few years ago, Kevin saw an older man struggling to carry firewood up the stairs from the basement to the fireplace at the association’s lodge. “I feel it is important to help out other people when they need help with something,” he said. So Kevin began volunteering to stack and load firewood at the lodge in the winter, keep the pellet stove’s hopper full, shovel the porch and deck, clean and organize the ski closet, and wax skis for the association’s youth ski program.
Kevin found he enjoyed his volunteer tasks so much that he wanted to continue over the summer. He now mows the lawn in the front and back of the lodge every two weeks, and helps to maintain ski trails by mowing them and cutting back brush. He also has helped build new trails and a garage for the association. “The work I do makes it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors and do things they like to do,” said Kevin. “I often tell other young people like me that volunteering can make a big difference to the community.”
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, we are delighted to recognize the 2015 honorees for their exemplary volunteer service,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These young people have demonstrated leadership, compassion and perseverance, and we look forward to seeing all they accomplish in the future.”
“These honorees represent the best of what America’s youth have to offer,” said G.A. Buie, president of NASSP. “They have set a powerful example for their peers by proving that one young person really can make a difference, and it is a privilege to shine a spotlight on their good works.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 33,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 20 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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.