Overland Park and Manhattan students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Leawood, Manhattan and
TOPEKA, Kan.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lauren Browning, 18, of Overland Park and Cooper Lohman, 13, of
Manhattan today were named Kansas’ top two youth volunteers of 2016 by
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring
young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Lauren was nominated
by Blue Valley Southwest High in Overland Park, and Cooper was nominated
by Amanda Arnold Elementary in Manhattan. 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).
Lauren, a senior at Blue Valley Southwest High, began painting faces at
community events when she was 9 years old to benefit kids with cancer,
and now oversees a group of 10 trained volunteers who paint as many as
3,500 faces a year. When a close family friend was diagnosed with brain
cancer, Lauren wanted to join the fight against cancer by raising money
and “bringing more smiles and hope into the world,” she said. She bought
some paints and started offering to paint faces at small, local
gatherings, and then moved up to larger events and began recruiting and
training other volunteers.
Her organization, called “Faces of Hope,” now has two painting crews
made up of 10 volunteers. With Lauren doing the training, scheduling and
coordinating, she and her staff paint for free at numerous community
events throughout the year, with an emphasis on those associated with
childhood cancer. They also paint faces at private functions like
birthday parties in exchange for donations to cancer-related charities,
sometimes raising as much as $500 in a single day. Lauren is training
two girls to take over her Kansas City area activities after she goes to
college next year, and is planning to start a branch at her new
location. “I do not want this smile factory to end,” she said. “A few
minutes of complete happiness can do wonders.”
Cooper, a seventh-grader at Susan B. Anthony Middle School, spearheaded
a drive to fund and build a multi-purpose outdoor stage at her
elementary school to thank its staff and students for “a truly amazing
experience.” As Cooper’s elementary school days were nearing an end, she
began brainstorming ways that she could express her gratitude and leave
her mark on the school. “I wanted to do something great for the students
and teachers to use after I had left,” she said. After much thought, she
settled on the idea of building an outdoor stage that could be used for
plays, assemblies, recess activities and outdoor classroom sessions.
Once she gained the support of the school’s principal, teachers, PTO and
students, Cooper enlisted an architect to draw up plans, and put
together a committee of students to help. She then set up an account on
a crowd-funding website and made fliers seeking donations. When it was
time to begin construction, Cooper recruited volunteers to help build
the stage. After almost a year of work, the stage was finally completed.
Cooper said it makes her happy to know that future generations of
students will reap the benefits of her efforts. “My younger sister still
attends the school, and it fills my heart when she comes home and tells
stories of how students enjoy playing and learning on the stage,” she
As State Honorees, Lauren and Cooper 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.
The program judges also recognized four other Kansas students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Kansas’ Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Lauren Bernard, 17, of Leawood, Kan., a senior at The Barstow
School, co-founded and is president of her school’s Leo Club, a youth
service organization, for which she has coordinated projects to benefit
six local and international charitable organizations. Lauren, who has
started a website to help match teens with volunteer opportunities, also
serves as one of only 13 Leo teens worldwide on the Leo Club Program
Ethan McPherson, 13, of Manhattan, Kan., a member of the Riley
County 4-H and an eighth-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School,
spent a year developing his school’s first agriculture club, which
started at the beginning of this school year. Ethan, who started the
club to increase awareness of the importance of agriculture, has already
created a schoolwide recycling system, and is working on an automated
watering system for the school’s gardens.
Teresa Shockley, 16, of Leawood, Kan., a sophomore at Shawnee
Mission East High School, founded “Reading for Recovery,” a project for
which she has created five “little libraries” at counseling centers,
libraries and school counseling offices with books to help preteens and
teens dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Teresa, who found her own path to recovery with the very books she
stocks in her libraries, has also set up a website and Facebook page to
reach more teens with her message of hope and recovery.
Garrett Tatro, 17, of Fort Scott, Kan., a senior at Fort Scott
High School, initiated a literacy project to provide read-at-home books
for local elementary school children that raised nearly $1,000,
distributed nearly 400 books and collected 500 more for kids to call
their own. Garrett, who plans on becoming a school teacher, sought help
from his school’s National Honor Society chapter for the project.
“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.
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 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 full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards
program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
Harold Banks, (973) 802-8974 or (973) 216-4833