Pass Christian and Indianola students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Madison, Petal and
JACKSON, Miss.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lindsey Meyer, 17, of Pass Christian and Jameshia Attaway, 12, of
Indianola today were named Mississippi’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. Lindsey was
nominated by Pass Christian High School in Pass Christian, and Jameshia
was nominated by Carver Elementary School in Indianola. 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).
Lindsey, a senior at Pass Christian High School, planned a “sensory
friendly” movie presentation at a local theater for people with autism
or other special needs, after learning that most people with these
disabilities are denied this simple pleasure because they may not be
able to sit still or stay quiet for an entire movie. “Working at a
summer camp for children with special needs broadened my perspective on
the limitations society sets for these people,” said Lindsey. When she
read on social media about a child with autism and his family being
removed from a movie theater after he had an excited outburst, she
wanted to do something. “A dark theater flooded with booming sound,
over-stimulating advertisements, and the overwhelming struggle to remain
still and silent can result in pain and anxiety for people with special
needs,” she said.
She first contacted several local theaters to propose a special showing
of a family-friendly film. To be sensory friendly, she explained, there
could be no commercials or previews beforehand, the lights must be left
on, the sound turned down, and the audience allowed to move about, talk,
clap, and even sing. Only one theater would even consider her idea.
After several meetings with the theater’s management, her persistence
paid off. Lindsey then trained a team of volunteers to help monitor the
event, posted a movie flier on social media, and reached out to the
special needs community for support. It wasn’t long before she heard
from organizations, schools, and homes for special needs individuals
eager to reserve seats. The theater’s management has now agreed to host
a sensory friendly movie each month.
Jameshia, a sixth-grader at Carver Elementary School, celebrates her
birthday each year by throwing a party for children in need and giving
them gifts she collects from businesses, local organizations and
community members. When Jameshia was 8 years old, she noticed that a
girl in her school wore shoes with holes in them. “Children made fun of
her,” said Jameshia. “I told my mother that I wanted to buy her a pair
of new shoes.” She then realized that many other kids were in need of
help, too, while every year she was “overwhelmed” with birthday gifts.
So she decided that she could “put on a smile on my face and theirs” by
giving her gifts away.
Since then, Jameshia starts preparing every November for a birthday
party to which she invites children in need. She writes letters to local
businesses and civic groups to garner donations of toys and food, and
contacts agencies that provide services for people in need. She also
asks family and friends to make gift boxes, teachers to read to children
who attend the party, and her mother’s friend to dress up as a princess.
The hardest part, Jameshia said, used to be finding a place large enough
to hold the party, but the mayor of her town now allows her to host the
event in a city-owned building. She estimates that about 40 local
families benefit from her project every year. In addition to her annual
party, Jameshia participates in a wide variety of community service
projects with her school’s PTA, the Indianola Youth Council and a
mayor’s diversity council.
As State Honorees, Lindsey and Jameshia 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 Mississippi students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Mississippi’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:
Cara Barker, 17, of Petal, Miss., a senior at Petal High School,
founded the “Petal Backpack Project” at her town’s primary school in
2013, a program that provides 30 children at the school with a weekend’s
supply of food that Cara purchases and packs herself once every week.
Cara, who raised nearly $5,000 to support the program through
partnerships and grants, has worked with her partners to extend the
program to two more schools in the district so the program now provides
food to 100 students weekly.
Katherine Clay, 17, of Madison, Miss., a senior at Madison
Central High School, spearheaded a fundraising campaign that included
the sale of T-shirts and bumper stickers and raised $15,000 to help
offset medical costs for her friend’s little sister, who was diagnosed
with acute myeloid leukemia. Katherine, who called the campaign
“#teamhannah4,” also sold awareness bracelets and ribbons that the
softball and volleyball team wore during their games.
Pranav Jaligam, 14, of Madison, Miss., a freshman at Rosa Scott
School, raised $2,500 through phone calls and door-to-door and social
media fundraising to purchase and distribute duffle bags for 150
children in foster care through the Mississippi Children’s Homes
Services program. Pranav, who recruited a small team of teens to help,
initiated “Team Operation Duffle Bag” when he learned that foster
children put their belongings in trash bags when they move from home to
Liz Sprabery, 16, of Meridian, Miss., a sophomore at Southeast
Lauderdale High School, created the program “Helping Children R.E.A.D.:
Reach Goals, Educate Themselves, Acquire Knowledge, Develop Life Skills”
in 2014, and has raised $1,200 and collected 1,200 books to create a
library for the East Mississippi Boys and Girls Club. Liz, who was
taught at a young age that reading opens doors, also ran a library card
registration drive at her high school and registered 332 students, while
also helping the United Way register newborns for its monthly book
program, known as the Imagination Library.
“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