Allyson Ahlstrom, 17, of Santa Rosa and Teagan Stedman, 13, of Thousand Oaks today were named California's top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Allyson was nominated by Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, and Teagan was nominated by Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Allyson, a senior at Cardinal Newman High School, created a full-service clothing boutique that has allowed 250 girls in need to each pick out two brand-new outfits for free over the past three years. Her “Threads for Teens” nonprofit also has also provided 130 girls with backpacks filled with school supplies, and has given out 100 prom dresses. Allyson got her inspiration from a book she received as a Christmas present, which told the stories of teens who had undertaken remarkable service projects. Realizing how important clothes can be to a teenage girl’s self-esteem and dignity, Allyson decided that she would try to make a difference by making new, fashionable clothing available to girls in foster care or other situations of poverty.
She immediately sent letters and email notes to more than 300 companies and stores, asking for clothing donations. Within a couple hours, she had her first donation and the responses grew quickly from then on. “I didn’t know that people would be so inclined to help with something like this,” she said. “When I started out I had no idea I’d get to where I am now.” To date, she has received more than $55,000 in monetary contributions and over $135,000 in clothing donations that include more than 40 national brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Claire’s, Hot Topic and American Eagle Outfitters. When girls make appointments to shop at Allyson’s boutique, located in a local storefront donated by a property management company, they browse through the racks of new clothes and accessories, and pick out two head-to-toe outfits. Next summer, Allyson plans to transform a large truck into a mobile boutique and take it on a 48-state tour to outfit one thousand additional girls.
Teagan, a seventh-grader at Harvard-Westlake School, organized a series of music events and other activities that raised more than $70,000 for pediatric cancer research. Four years ago, Teagan discovered that the brother of a girl in his school carpool had cancer and was feeling very isolated. “I wanted to do more than ask ‘How is Alex doing?’ all the time,” he said. “I knew Alex liked to play music, so I thought if I put on a benefit concert, that would lift his spirits and the money raised would go to help all kids with cancer.”
Teagan figured a “battle of the bands” would attract the most interest, so he called the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles “and somehow they agreed to host the concert,” he said. Teagan then posted flyers at a local music school to invite bands to compete, and persuaded Guitar Center to donate guitars and help recruit celebrity judges. Ten youth bands (one of which included Alex) played for more than 400 music fans at Teagan’s first “Shredfest.” “It was an amazing day,” he said. “It felt like I did a huge favor for the world.” Thankfully, Alex got better, and so the next year Teagan hosted a second concert at the House of Blues and dedicated it to another local boy with cancer. Since then, Teagan has set up a nonprofit charity called “Shred Kids’ Cancer,” recruited numerous other young volunteers to help, signed up corporate sponsors, organized other fundraising events and held two more “Shredfests,” with a fifth scheduled for April 2013.
As State Honorees, Allyson and Teagan 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 2013.
The program judges also recognized 10 other California students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are California's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Madison Brinnon, 17, of Pleasanton, Calif., a member of the YMCA of the East Bay in Oakland and a senior at California Virtual Academy at San Joaquin, founded a community service project called “FOUR with a purpose,” a group of four teenagers whose passion for helping others drives their action. The group has conducted food drives and delivered meals to the hungry, collected and distributed art and school supplies for hospitalized children, and collected books, clothing and medical supplies for a village in Africa.
Lulu Cerone, 13, of Encino, Calif., an eighth-grader at Archer School for Girls, raised more than $40,000 over the past four years through her “LemonAID Warriors” project that encouraged young people to help people in need. This year, Lulu’s fundraising efforts included a “LemonAID” week with 500 benefit lemonade stands across the country, a concert featuring the band Hanson, and a charity walk, all helping to provide clean drinking water to 8,000 people in an African village.
Rohan Chandra, 17, of Fremont, Calif., a senior at The Harker School, created the “Earthquake Preparedness for Seniors” project, for which he wrote and distributed 1,000 multilingual earthquake safety guides to an older immigrant population in an earthquake-prone area. Rohan, who recruited a group of 50 volunteers and raised more than $12,000 to support his project, also assembled and distributed 250 earthquake kits to the neediest seniors in his community.
Shawn Esmaili, 18, of Cupertino, Calif., a senior at Saint Francis High School, created a nonprofit organization, “Youth Against Poverty,” and persuaded manufacturers to donate more than one thousand pairs of athletic shoes to orphans in Haiti and Tanzania. Shawn, who was motivated to serve when he visited an orphanage in Iran, also received sample shoes from national shoe companies and sold them to raise more than $50,000 to support the building of a clinic in Haiti.
Sydney Fredette, 13, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., an eighth-grader at St. Anne School, started a charitable project to donate stuffed animals to children in need as a way to honor her best friend, who she lost to cancer. Sydney, who to date has donated nearly 1,000 stuffed bears, also hosts a holiday party where children in need can shop for and wrap holiday gifts, and leads other volunteer projects to help make a difference in the community.
Noah Lizerbram, 18, of Carlsbad, Calif., a senior at La Costa Canyon High School, founded “YouthJamz,” a nonprofit organization that has raised $25,000 through concerts to help provide instruments and music education to children fighting leprosy in India, children affected by war in Africa, and teenagers who are homeless in San Diego. To help him with his musical mission, Noah formed a group of 30 fellow students who help plan concerts, research causes, seek sponsors and reach out to the community.
Danamarie McNicholl-Carter, 18, of La Mesa, Calif., a senior at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, has raised more than $5,000 to send 23 children who use wheelchairs to a summer camp with the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation. Danamarie, who was born with hip dysplasia that healed, raised the funds through various “Stroll and Roll” events and a community awareness campaign, and also directly with the children as a camp volunteer.
Nicole Minkina, 17, of San Clemente, Calif., a senior at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, founded the “Global Drug Prevention Initiative” in an effort to apply the drug prevention education she has learned as a Next Step drug educator in this country to help her native Belarus. In the past year, Nicole has worked with international agencies to develop a peer drug education program in five high schools with 40 peer educators reaching more than 2,500 students.
Samuel Patton, 14, of Grass Valley, Calif., a member of the Nevada County 4-H and an eighth-grader with RHR Home School, has collected nearly 4,000 books through his program, “Read to Succeed,” and distributed them to hospitals, shelters, children’s organizations and families in need. Samuel has reached out to his 4-H club for help with his book collections, and has partnered with local minor league teams to encourage book collections at local games.
Kayla Tinucci, 16, of Newhall, Calif., a junior at Canyon High School, collected more than 2,600 pairs of new shoes and distributed them to children in need through her organization, “The Shoe Crew.” Kayla pulled together a crew of 10 friends, sought business sponsors and hosted a series of eight events including skate nights, pool parties and concerts for which the entrance fee was a new pair of shoes.
“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”
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. Nearly 5,000 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 growth.
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 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013. 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 100,000 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 and India. 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.
NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, 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 http://www.news.prudential.com/.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833
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