|[February 05, 2013]
South Dakota's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 18th Annual National Awards Program
PIERRE, S.D. --(Business Wire)--
Daniel Schmidtman, 17, of Sioux Falls and Bridger Gordon, 12, of
Whitewood today were named South Dakota'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. Daniel was
nominated by Washington High School in Sioux Falls, and Bridger was
nominated by Sturgis Williams Middle School in Sturgis. 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).
Daniel, a senior at Washington High School, helped form a hunger-focused
student volunteer organization that has grown to include more than 175
members from numerous schools who are participating in monthly service
projects and planning several large fundraising events. Daniel was
initially motivated by a young Arizona man who founded an organization
to support AIDS orphans. "After listening to his message, I was inspired
to make a difference," said Daniel. "I wanted others to have the same
quality of life that I was fortunate enough to have."
It took a few years for Daniel to figure out what he should do, but it
finally crystallized during conversations with the director of family
ministry at his church. Shortly after, Daniel found two other students
who wanted to join him in working to fight hunger, both locally and
globally. As the group grew, it began meeting once a month to have fun
and work on a variety of volunteer projects, such as participating in a
hunger walkathon, feeding the homeless and stuffing backpacks for
shipment to third-world countries. Daniel's group, "Servant 3," also is
planning to host three big community events each year to aid those less
fortunate. In addition, Daniel has served as a church school teacher for
the past four years, and has produced radio commercials warning about
texting while driving.
Bridger, a seventh-grader at Sturgis Williams Middle School, has
spearheaded several environmental initiatives in his community over the
past four years with the philosophy that every day should be Earth Day.
Bridger was first inspired when he noticed litter in public places as an
8-year-old. "Seeing trash in the road ditch and city parks made me want
to do more to keep our earth clean," he said. So he started picking up
litter with his family during evening walks. Before long, he was
encouraging his grade-school classmates to pick up litter, too, and then
he coordinated several community cleanup events with his 4-H club.
For the past three years, Bridger has organized an annual community
rummage sale to encourage the reuse of belongings so they're not sent to
landfills; the $3,400 proceeds from the sale have benefited a school
program. In 2011, he hosted a drive that collected nearly 600 pairs of
worn-out tennis shoes that were then ground up to make other products.
Bridger also is passionate about recycling aluminum cans; he initiated a
can-recycling program at the county fair, and helped launch a recycling
program at his school. In addition, he created a Facebook (News - Alert) page to raise
awareness of environmental issues. "I am dedicated to inspiring others
to keep our planet 'green' for future generations," he said.
As State Honorees, Daniel and Bridger 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 andthe 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 two other South Dakota students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are South Dakota's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:
Hannah Higdon, 15, of Dupree, S.D., a sophomore at Dupree High
School, leads two local elementary cheerleading squads and dance teams,
running weekly practices, choreographing routines, and performing with
the groups at special events. Hannah, who has help from adult
supervisors and fellow high school cheerleaders, also created a DVD so
the girls could practice the routines at home.
Sierra Lutz, 18, of Java, S.D., a senior at Eureka High School,
initiated a project to beautify the park and bath houses at Eureka
Lakeside Park in advance of the town's 125th anniversary celebration.
Sierra, a frequent visitor to the park, noticed its run-down state and
sought approval from the town council to proceed with the project, then
secured nearly $600 in donations and recruited some volunteers to help
her paint the tables and picnic shelter, and paint and repair the
"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
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.
For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community
State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com
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
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