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Texas’ Top Youth Volunteers Of 2017 Selected By National Program

Texas’ Top Youth Volunteers Of 2017 Selected By National Program

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Ryan Almusawi, 17, of Fort

Worth and Micah Pinson, 12, of Shady Shores today were named Texas’

top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community

Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding

acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Ryan and Micah 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


The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is

conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National

Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Texas’ top youth volunteers of 2017:

High School State Honoree: Ryan Almusawi Nominated by Saginaw High

School in Saginaw

Ryan, a junior at Saginaw High School, is the president and CEO of

“Charitable Crusaders Inc.,” a nonprofit organization of high school

students who work on a variety of service projects that benefit

families in need. When he was a sixth grader, Ryan and a small group

of classmates made a pact to do some good. They came together to host

small community projects, beginning with a toy drive for young

patients at Cook Children’s Medical Center. As the group grew and

gained experience under Ryan’s leadership, it established a board of

directors, filed for nonprofit status, and planned increasingly

ambitious endeavors.

Charitable Crusaders volunteers give backpacks stuffed with school

supplies to children in need during an annual “Back to School” event.

In December 2015, they rushed to nearby Garland, Texas, to help

families recover from a tornado that struck the day after Christmas.

When a local boy was struck and killed by a car, Ryan and his crew

held a bake sale to raise money for the boy’s family. Currently,

Charitable Crusaders is working to implement an after-school youth

mentoring program at several local schools. “Philanthropy is an avenue

that brings people from all races, cultures and backgrounds together

for one common purpose: helping others,” said Ryan.

Middle Level State Honoree: Micah Pinson Nominated by Corinth

Classical Academy in Corinth

Micah, a seventh-grader at Corinth Classical Academy, has conducted an

annual holiday toy drive over the past five years that has gathered

more than 15,000 toys and games for patients at Texas Scottish Rite

Hospital for Children as a way of giving back to the hospital for the

free care he received there. Micah was born with a left hand that was

missing three and a half fingers, but now, after two surgeries at

Scottish Rite, “there is almost nothing I can’t do,” he said. The

hospital not only treated Micah’s hand, but also hosted a “hand camp”

where Micah could meet other kids and counselors with hand differences

and realize that he was not alone.

Grateful for all the hospital had done, Micah and his father met with

an officer there to find out how they could help Scottish Rite. That’s

when Micah decided to collect toys that the hospital could give to its

patients throughout the year. So now, every year between Thanksgiving

and Christmas, Micah and his family knock on doors and place

collection boxes at businesses and other community locations, often

with the help of local high school students and other volunteers. A

few days before Christmas, Micah gathers all of the items that have

been donated and delivers them to the hospital. “There are many ways

to give back to causes that are important to you,” said Micah. “I am

thankful for the opportunity to support Texas Scottish Rite Hospital.”

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized ten other Texas students as

Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service

activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Texas’ Distinguished Finalists for 2017:

Chowdhury Bari , 19, of Grand Prairie, Texas, a senior at Lamar High

School, partnered with his friend to start the “HelpMate Foundation,”

providing essential items from the United States to people in need in

Bangladesh. Inspired by the service of his father, who helped many

people as a brigadier general in the Bangladesh army, Chowdhury works

with business owners to offer support to those in need with a focus on

child laborers, and has provided education, clothing, food and health

care to people in many communities.

Anna Connolly , 18, of Dallas, Texas, a member of Girl Scouts of

Northeast Texas and a senior at Pearce High School, has reached more

than 13,000 people in North Texas with “Clean Hands, Healthy People,”

a public health campaign she created to raise awareness about proper

handwashing techniques and the spread of germs. Anna solicited advice

from two doctors and a community educator to develop campaign

materials and plan her approach, and worked with 65 student volunteers

to help carry out her plan.

Kaitlyn Ecoff , 17, of Bulverde, Texas, a senior at Smithson Valley

High School, is the founder and director of a mobile clothes closet

providing seasonally-appropriate clothing to families in need.

Kaitlyn, who previously volunteered with a nonprofit that offered

clothes and counseling to those in need, wanted to help fill the gap

when that organization closed; she now coordinates clothing drives,

recruits volunteers to sort donations, and determines the needs of

recipient families.

Sabrina Epstein , 17, of San Antonio, Texas, a senior at Ronald Reagan

High School, is the founder and executive director of “Artful Start,”

an art program for children with special needs that has provided a

creative outlet to hundreds of participants in the San Antonio area.

In addition to hosting events ranging from family art days to

sensory-friendly museum hours, Sabrina’s program works to educate its

high school volunteers about the value of people with special needs.

Henry Hernandez , 18, of Irving, Texas, a senior at Macarthur High

School, has helped to provide more than 100 homeless people with food

and support through the outreach and collection program he established

in 2014. After witnessing abject poverty so close to the city, Henry

was moved to help; he then worked with his parents, local businesses,

his youth pastor and youth group to launch “Project Sheltering Jesus.”

Lauren Holtkamp , 17, of Conroe, Texas, a member of Montgomery County

4-H and a senior at Conroe High School, organized “The Special Angels

Rodeo,” an event that provided children with special needs and their

families a fun day with activities including games and a petting zoo.

To start a local rodeo like the one her cousin had enjoyed in another

town, Lauren solicited donations and worked with her 4-H club to stage

the event; she also contacted every special education department

leader in the county to recruit contestants.

Elijah Johns , 18, of San Antonio, Texas, a senior at Johnson High

School, has conducted a free basketball camp for the past three years

to provide kids in need with the same kind of camp experience he’s

enjoyed. After securing donations of facilities, drinks, snacks and

equipment, Elijah and his volunteers have run weeklong camps for kids

aged 7-13, teaching the campers about the fundamentals of basketball,

the importance of school and healthy living.

Daniel Kurtenbach , 17, of Duncanville, Texas, a member of Dallas

County 4-H and a junior at South Grand Prairie High School, helped to

establish a donation drive that has gathered significant donations of

shoes and athletic equipment over the past eight years for children in

need in the United States and around the world. Daniel also played a

key role in a 2015 effort that raised more than $50,000 in money and

in-kind donations to renovate the playground at a local middle school.

Carissa Mallory , 17, of Austin, Texas, a senior at Vandegrift High

School, is the founder of the “Reading Around the World Literacy

Initiative (RAWLI),” a charity that in the past three years has

provided schools in Tanzania with resources including more than 12,000

books, 350 desks and chairs and an educational game to help

Swahili-speaking students learn English. Carissa began her initiative

after learning that English language skills often proved to be a

barrier to pursuing a high school education in Tanzania.

Eesha Nayak , 15, of Austin, Texas, a member of Girl Scouts of Central

Texas and a sophomore at Westwood High School, used her video

production skills to help train volunteers and raise more than $10,000

for the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, an organization that provides

free healthcare services to the uninsured working poor. Eesha, who has

volunteered with the clinic for two years, created a series of

volunteer orientation videos for the clinic, in addition to

promotional videos that have helped the clinic raise money.

“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their

exemplary service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld.

“We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too,

can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”

“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to

communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate

their work,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP.

“Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high

school students.”

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. 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 May 8,

10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school

students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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 and Brazil. In addition to granting its

own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also

distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local


For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community

State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or


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

Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP,

located in Reston, VA, visit

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

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics ,

please visit

To view the original version on PR Newswire,


SOURCE Prudential Insurance


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