Georgia’s Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 21st Annual National Awards Program

Duluth and Union City students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Kennesaw, Dunwoody,
Snellville, Fayetteville, Cumming and Ringgold

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Devneet Singh, 17, of Duluth and Damacia Howard, 13, of Union City today
were named Georgia’s top two youth volunteers of 2016 by The Prudential
Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people
for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Devneet was nominated by Gwinnett
School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology in Lawrenceville, and
Damacia was nominated by Georgia Cyber Academy in College Park. The
Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 21st year, is
conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National
Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Devneet, a junior at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and
Technology, served as a mentor, teacher and friend to young refugees
from Bhutan while working as a lead volunteer coordinator in Atlanta for
SEWA, an international humanitarian organization. She became involved
after meeting one of SEWA’s Atlanta chapter chairmen and learning of the
need for young adult volunteers. “Half of all refugees are children
subject to war, religious persecution and famine,” said Devneet. “I
couldn’t help but be motivated by such adversity.”

During the summer months, Devneet taught classes on math, science,
history and language to Bhutanese students ranging from 5 to 17 years
old. She also planned fun games, brought books and snacks, advised on
personal hygiene, and provided information on public transportation.
After one of her students expressed astonishment at being given a pencil
to keep, Devneet organized a car wash that raised $300 for school
supplies. She also served as vice president of a 5K run that raised
$7,000 for SEWA’s animal rights campaign. Devneet compiled photographs
and video footage from her experience into a promotional video to
recruit additional volunteers. “I am passionate about this relief
effort,” said Devneet, “because it is a way that I can directly aid the
children of refugees, immigrants and other hard-pressed members of the
international community.”

Damacia, a seventh-grader at Georgia Cyber Academy, has collected
thousands of books in her community for students in Africa, working with
a national charity called Books for Africa. Damacia was looking for a
community service project to take on in conjunction with her membership
in the National Junior Beta Club and her title of 2015 Miss Georgia
Pre-Teen Spokes Model. She researched possible projects with her mother,
and upon learning that books are desperately needed in Africa, she knew
she’d found her mission. “Education is important,” she said, “and when
help can be given to children in other countries, I feel those of us
that can help should.”

Damacia started by packing up books out of her own collection, and then
asked friends and family members for help. She spoke to middle school
students about her effort, obtained some publicity on a radio program
and set up a collection drive at her church. All of the books she
collected were turned over to Books for Africa to be shipped overseas.
In addition to providing a valuable educational resource to African
kids, Damacia’s project has helped emphasize “what a privilege it is to
have access to books via libraries, schools, electronic devices and
bookstores,” she said. “Knowing that helps me not take books for

As State Honorees, Devneet and Damacia 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 2016.

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized seven other Georgia students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Georgia’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Annie Dempsey, 17, of Kennesaw, Ga., a senior at Blessed Trinity
Catholic High School, serves as Georgia state director of the Miss
Amazing Pageant, a program that helps girls with disabilities build
confidence and self-esteem through pageant skills such as public
speaking. Annie, who was named Georgia director in 2012, coordinates an
event committee that assists with planning, sponsorship, recruitment and
volunteer training.

Elizabeth Harvey, 17, of Dunwoody, Ga., a member of the Girl
Scouts of Greater Atlanta and a senior at The Westminster Schools,
developed and coordinated two educational programs for 40 children at a
shelter for women and children, and also raised more than $2,000 by
making and selling homemade candles to support her programs. Elizabeth
created the “Trees Around Us” program to educate the children about
nature while incorporating STEM activities and a field trip, and also
created the “My Healthy Self” program, which featured exercise and
fitness lessons, games to teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle,
and a fun run.

Matthew McDaniel, 16, of Snellville, Ga., a junior at Archer High
School, co-founded “Helpful Hydration,” a nonprofit organization
dedicated to providing communities in Africa with access to clean water
and proper sanitation. Matthew, who serves as co-president of the
organization, has helped to coordinate a handmade bracelet fundraiser,
which resulted in $5,000 to support the organization’s mission.

Olivia Ries, 13, of Fayetteville, Ga., an eighth-grader at Konos
Academy, co-founded “One More Generation (OMG),” a nonprofit
organization that aims to help save endangered species across the globe.
Olivia and her brother have written curriculum about the dangers of
plastic pollution on wildlife that they are distributing to teachers
across the country, and have also raised awareness about rhino poaching
and traveled to other countries to encourage world leaders to strengthen
animal protection laws.

Hailee Sontag, 16, of Grayson, Ga., a junior at Archer High
School, is co-president and co-founder of “Helpful Hydration,” a
nonprofit organization that works to provide sustainable water to
communities in sub-Saharan Africa through events, fundraisers and other
measures. The organization’s first fundraiser, selling handmade
bracelets to raise money for well construction, now operates on a
national level, involving school clubs and youth groups from around the
United States.

Hannah Testa, 13, of Cumming, Ga., a member of the Forsyth County
4-H and a seventh-grader at Vickery Creek Middle School, is an avid
animal activist who has helped raise awareness about the dangers of
plastic pollution by creating educational videos and conducting
presentations to 1,000 people. Hannah also baked elephant cookies and
raised $1,400 to support The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya,
which cares for orphaned elephants and releases them back to the wild.

Erin Grace Walden, 17, of Ringgold, Ga., a senior at Heritage
High School, is a volunteer in the museum apprentice program at the
Creative Discovery Museum, where she assists at summer camps and events,
interacts with visitors and helps to clean exhibits. Erin also
volunteers at the Tennessee Aquarium, where she educates visitors about
the animals.

“Prudential commends each of these young volunteers for using their
creativity and compassion to bring positive change to their
communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope
their stories inspire others to consider how they can make a difference,

“We are pleased to honor these students not only for their exemplary
acts of service, but for the powerful example they’ve set for their
peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP.
“Congratulations to each of the 2016 honorees.”

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

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 2, 10 of the State Honorees –
five middle level and five high school students – will be named
America’s top youth volunteers of 2016. 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
Honorees on behalf of President Barack Obama.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community
State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit


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 and 35 countries around the world. 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

Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards
program logo and medallions, click here:


Prudential Financial
Harold Banks, (973) 802-8974 or (973) 216-4833