Fort Worth student named a top 10 youth volunteer

Orion Jean earned a scholarship for learning about a problem and working toward a solution.

Orion Jean, 10, of Fort Worth, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2021 on by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 26th annual, and second fully virtual, national recognition celebration. Selected from a field of more than 21,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Orion has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a scholarship of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for his school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit organization of his choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.

Orion, a fifth-grader at Chisholm Ridge Elementary, collected more than 600 toys for kids at a children’s hospital, and provided more than 40,000 meals for people in need, after winning a national speech contest in which he encouraged people to “Race to Kindness.” Realizing that “the best way to spread kindness is to lead by example,” Orion started planning a series of “race” events after winning his contest, beginning with the “Race to 500 Toys.” For that toy drive, he researched toys that are both fun and budget friendly and then posted a wish list on a website that his mother created. Using his contest prize money, along with donations received through the website, Orion began shopping for toys. He also set up toy collection boxes at his school and a community center. In just over a month, Orion accumulated more than 600 toys, which he unboxed, sorted and delivered to a Dallas children’s hospital last fall.

Orion wanted to do something even bigger for his second “race,” so he embarked on the “Race to 100,000 Meals.” Partnering with an organization that collects food for the hungry, Orion filled “snack packs” with fruit, granola bars and bottles of water, and appealed to others to do the same. He then helped organized local drop-off events and pack all of the donated sack packs into delivery trucks. Drop-off events also ended up being held in other states by people inspired by Orion. At last count, Orion was well on his way to reaching his 100,000-meal goal.

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“After 26 years of honoring young volunteers, we know that students across America do great things in service to their communities, and we’re especially inspired by this year’s honorees for doing so in the face of unprecedented challenges,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO.. “Prudential is proud to shine a spotlight on these remarkable young people and their stories of service.”

“These young volunteers are great examples of the resilience and commitment to social progress that so many students demonstrated over the past year,” said Ronn Nozoe, chief executive officer, NASSP. “NASSP congratulates these students on a well-deserved honor, and thanks them for providing us all with role models for turning adversity into action.”