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Student honored for volunteerism in ceremony with Michael Phelps

Chase Hartman receives award from Michael Phelps


Two Florida youth honored for volunteerism at national award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

SOURCE Prudential Insurance

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps pays tribute to Miami and Tampa students

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Annie Farrell, 18, of Miami and Chase Hartman, 11, of Tampa, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Annie and Chase – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.


The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Annie and Chase Florida's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an allexpense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.

Annie, a member of the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida and a senior at Coral Gables Senior High School, organized three college-prep workshops to help about a dozen students who had aged out of foster care navigate the complicated and often overwhelming college application process. "As the daughter of a first- generation college student, I'm aware not everybody lives with the expectation that college is the next step," said Annie. Since she was about to begin applying to colleges, she thought she could help some at-risk teens by taking them through the process with her.

First, Annie researched the application process and collected tips for success. Then she recruited two University of Miami admissions counselors, three Miami Herald writers, and the education director of a local cultural center to help her conduct three workshops for residents of Casa Valentina, a nonprofit that houses and assists young people who are too old to remain in foster care. At the first workshop, the college counselors explained how to complete a college application and the residents were provided with the tips and information that Annie had compiled. At the next two sessions, the newspaper writers addressed how to brainstorm topics for application essays, and helped each student craft an essay. Annie also created a "college cubby" at Casa Valentina stocked with college guides, binders and test preparation books, and gave each student a college sweatshirt to symbolize the path they had embarked upon.

Chase, a fifth-grader at Mary E. Bryant Elementary School, collected more than 15,000 books with his best friend and donated them to 23 organizations across two states so that kids and others without ready access to books could discover the joy of reading. "I've always loved to read," said Chase. "My parents made sure I had a stocked library in my room and my teachers always have great books in their classrooms." But last year while working on a book drive that yielded hundreds of books for kids in need, Chase realized there are many children who don't have books of their own. "I knew I could do more," he said.

After Chase found a local company willing to give away thousands of books, he and his friend reached out to others for additional book donations on social media, as well as through interviews with the press, collection boxes, and presentations to schools and community groups. Since last August, the boys and other young volunteers they recruited have spent many hours collecting books, sorting them into categories, and delivering them to Title I schools, libraries, ministries, a local veterans hospital and other organizations. "I know we are making a difference," said Chase. "We are helping kids learn to love reading."

"These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers."

"It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference."

Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year's program.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.

For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.


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