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
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.”
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
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
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
http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.
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 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 Insurance