WASHINGTON, May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Utah's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Armani McFarland, 15, of Farr West and Gabbie Lundberg, 12, of South Jordan, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Armani and Gabbie – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis 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 Armani and Gabbie Utah'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 all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Armani, a sophomore at Weber High School, has conducted 32 collection and fundraising drives over the past seven years that have yielded more than 6,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies for children from low-income families, as well as food, books, toys, clothing and hygiene items for other individuals and families in need. When she was in the third grade, Armani heard from her teacher that there were kids in their own community who went to bed hungry at night. "That thought broke my heart," she said. Her response: a food drive that collected 1,000 pounds for a local food bank.
Shortly thereafter, Armani began collecting backpacks and school supplies for kids in need. Many other projects followed, and in 2016, Armani founded a nonprofit, "One Can Make a Change." To conduct her collection and fundraising initiatives, she seeks donations through her website, solicits support from local businesses, and arranges activities such as raffles, bake sales, barbecues and lemonade stands. In addition to her food drives and annual backpack project, Armani has provided books to kids, stuffed animals to traumatized and injured children, and clothing and toiletries to the homeless. Recently, Armani helped remove, install and provide funding for a new $12,000 roof on a teen homeless shelter in Ogden. She also has traveled to Ghana with an international nonprofit to help install a water tank and to spend time with children at an orphanage. "Volunteering is not always easy, exciting or fun," said Armani. "Sometimes it's really hard. But it has always been worth it. I am constantly motivated by the smiles that the much-needed items bring to so many faces."
Gabbie, a sixth-grader at North Star Academy, organized a day camp in her basement for children in her neighborhood in order to raise money for refugees in Utah. Gabbie has loved babysitting kids for as long as she can remember. Watching her mother volunteering on behalf of refugees, she tried to think of a way that she could help, too. Then an idea came to her in the middle of the night: She could combine her love of children with her desire to assist refugees by hosting a day care event and then donating the proceeds.
The next day, Gabbie began making a flier to advertise her "Camp Awesome" for kids 4-7 years old. She distributed it around her neighborhood, tidied up her basement, and gathered toys, games and music. Soon her phone started ringing with calls from parents wanting to enroll their children. "I had a whopping 38 kids who wanted to come to camp!" Gabbie said. Realizing that that was too many kids for one person to handle, she recruited a friend to help supervise. The camp featured dancing, singing, games and other fun activities, plus certificates and awards that Gabbie spent hours preparing. She also had to make sure that all the children got along and that those who were sad being away from home got special attention. Camp Awesome raised almost $200, which Gabbie donated to a Utah organization that supports refugee families. She plans to hold her camp again this summer.
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network. More than 29,000 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 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at 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.
Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Utah's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.