WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Arkansas' top two youth volunteers of 2019, Anna Claire Hay, 16, of Springdale and Taci Humphries, 12, of Ash Flat, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Anna Claire and Taci – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis 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 Anna Claire and Taci Arkansas' 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.
Anna Claire, a sophomore at Shiloh Christian School, started "Teens with Integrity," a campaign in her state to help young people find volunteer opportunities they are passionate about, and that can help them cultivate character-building qualities to make it easier to weather their own challenges. It all started when she was 11. Anna Claire's grandmother had Alzheimer's disease and was being cared for in a nursing home. "Watching my grandmother's memory start to wane was both heartbreaking and compelling," said Anna Claire. "It became my mission to learn all I could from her life story." As she spent more time with her grandmother, she realized there were many other Alzheimer's patients who rarely had visitors and whose stories would soon be lost.
Anna Claire secured a sponsorship from a local business to provide cookies and milkshakes each week at the nursing home, and invited friends to join her in visiting the residents. But she was quickly disappointed that most of her friends did not share her enthusiasm. She realized that her passion was not everyone's, and that she needed to help her peers find theirs by exposing them to different volunteer opportunities. To do that, Anna Claire speaks to groups about her campaign to get teens involved in their communities, and has a website where she encourages her peers to participate in projects such as conducting book drives, writing letters to servicemen and women, ringing Salvation Army red-kettle bells during the holidays, and serving as Santa's elves. She estimates that, over the years, she has helped 8,000 students find meaningful ways to help others.
Taci, a sixth-grader at Highland Middle School, has spent many hours tutoring a visually impaired student in her class, and in the process has helped him improve his grades dramatically. An enthusiastic volunteer, Taci had served her community in a variety of capacities over the years, helping at a special needs rodeo, tutoring students, making lap blankets for local veterans and helping teachers get their classrooms ready for the start of a new school year, in addition to many other volunteering, academic and leadership activities. But she wasn't prepared for how her math teacher's request last August to help the new kid in school "would change my whole life!"
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It turned out the new kid was a boy who has significant visual impairment. First, Taci had to learn to read and write in Braille. She also had to come up with ways to turn visual concepts such as grids and tables into something that didn't require sight. "After racking my brain, I came up with the idea of using Play-Doh," said Taci. "Now he figures his ratios just like the rest of us." While her new friend has thrived under her tutoring — he even placed in a state-level Braille-reading competition this year — Taci insists she is the one who has learned the most as she's watched him refuse to be defined by his disability. The experience has made her think about a future career working with children who have disabilities. "I have gotten so much more than I've given," she said. "I have learned that I have no right to complain and that sometimes to really see something, you don't look with your eyes."
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network. More than 29,000 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 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 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 principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at www.nassp.org.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. 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 pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Arkansas' honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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