PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Alison Hornung, 17, of North Kingstown and Sarah Lavoie, 14, of Coventry today were named Rhode Island’s top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Alison and Sarah each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April 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 2018.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Rhode Island’s top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Alison Hornung
Nominated by North Kingstown High School in North Kingstown

Alison, a senior at North Kingstown High School, organized a fashion runway show and other fundraisers over a six-week period that yielded $43,000 to help find a cure for blood cancers after a close friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Alison was devastated as she watched her friend Grace struggle with her disease. “During the treatment, she lost her eyesight, use of her legs, and the ability to be a child,” said Alison. When Grace nominated her to participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year fundraising competition, “there was no doubt in my mind that it was something I wanted to do,” said Alison. 

Alison knew she wanted her main fundraising event to be a fashion runway show. She contacted two designers from the TV program “Project Runway,” as well as two local clothing designers, all of whom committed to the event. She asked local businesses for raffle and silent auction items, found a free venue and a caterer, and secured donated lighting, music, a photo booth, and hair and makeup services. The day of the event, Grace, who is now cancer-free, and 14 other cancer patients, walked the runway. “Seeing Grace powerfully, confidently, and gracefully strut down the runway was the best feeling I have ever felt,” said Alison. The event raised $12,000, but Alison wanted to donate more, so she planned other fundraisers including fitness events and a battle of the bands. While she ended up a little short of her $50,000 goal, she won the competition and says she will continue raising money to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.          

Middle Level State Honoree: Sarah Lavoie
Nominated by Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry in Coventry

Sarah, an eighth-grader at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, helps resolve conflicts between students at her school peacefully through her role as a peer mediator. When Sarah was in seventh grade, she took a class called “Teen Issues,” which explored topics such as peer pressure and substance abuse. One of the units was about peer mediation and at its conclusion, the teacher asked Sarah if she wanted to be a peer mediator. “My teacher and guidance counselor told me that I had the right personality, was a good listener, and that they believed I would be a good peer mediator,” she said. “Their belief in me was what inspired me to get involved, because I had never felt recognized for being who I am.”

Sarah and the other chosen students undertook 21 hours of training to learn how to help when students are involved in conflict situations. She then led her fellow mediators in brainstorming ideas for a presentation to students in the school. When students are in a conflict, two peer mediators are called in to help them work together to solve the problem, she said. Mediators try to get each party to understand how the other feels, to really listen to the other side of the argument, and to try to come to a mutually acceptable resolution. “If everyone understands how the people around them feel and work it out when someone is hurt, then they can have a healthy mindset when going to school and not be distracted or stressed,” Sarah said.         

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other Rhode Island students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Rhode Island’s Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Leigh Payne, 18, of Barrington, R.I., a senior at Barrington High School, has led 40 young musicians from her community to perform concerts at nursing homes through “Hope and Healing Music,” a program she started in 2015. Leigh, a pianist driven to bring comfort through music to people with Alzheimer’s disease, enlisted the help of her school’s Future Business Leaders of America club and National Honor Society to support her program.

Idalys Perez, 18, of Providence, R.I., a senior at Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, organized a walkathon in memory of a late family friend and influential school administrator, raising more than $2,700 for the American Heart Association and a scholarship in her name. Idalys took the lead on logistics from marketing and volunteer recruitment to recruiting business donors for the event, which drew about 100 participants.

“Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same.”

“These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they’ve served – they also set an important example for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “These honorees prove that you’re never too young to make a difference.”

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 affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network, 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 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 April 30, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018. 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 120,000 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, Brazil and Poland. 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.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

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. 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 Student Council. 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.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media

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SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.