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

Old Tappan and Long Valley students earn $1,000 awards, engraved
medallions and trip to nation’s capital

Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Westfield, Denville,
Randolph, Summit and Tenafly

TRENTON, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Benjamin Zangoglia, 17, of Old Tappan and Zachary Rice, 13, of Long
Valley today were named New Jersey’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. Benjamin was
nominated by North Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, and
Zachary was nominated by Long Valley Middle School in Long Valley. 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).

Benjamin, a senior at North Valley Regional High School, organized a
fundraising team that collected more than $115,000 in donations last
spring to find a cure for a rare form of leukemia that Benjamin has had
since he was 10 years old. When he was first diagnosed, Benjamin said he
“hated everything about myself,” but after a “long, internal struggle,”
he realized he couldn’t let his disease control his life. With a new
attitude, Benjamin decided he wanted to help others living with blood
cancer, especially children. “I needed to help rid the world of this
insidious disease,” he said.

Benjamin got his chance when his oncologist nominated him to compete in
the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s annual fundraising competition, held
each spring. He assembled a team of his closest friends and began
strategizing ways to collect donations. Over the next 10 weeks,
Benjamin’s “Team Be-CURE-ious” placed posters throughout Bergen County,
sent emails and letters to potential donors, made telephone calls and
in-person presentations, and solicited contributions from friends,
family members and their business associates. When the deadline arrived,
the team had raised $115,332, the third-highest total in the New York
City area. “Leukemia taught me that everyone has the power to overcome
the bleakest experience, and the right attitude always yields success,”
said Benjamin.

Zachary, an eighth-grader at Long Valley Middle School, initiated an
annual 5K run/walk that has raised more than $50,000 over the past three
years to provide gaming systems and other fun distractions for young
patients at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown. Zach spent a lot
of time in the hospital during fourth and fifth grade due to a painful
hip infection and a subsequent debilitating bone condition. His father,
however, made it a little easier for him by bringing his gaming system
from home. “I quickly learned how important being distracted from pain
can be to a child in the hospital,” said Zach. When he returned home, he
announced that he wanted to buy gaming systems for all the kids in the

Zach and his mother agreed that a good way to do that would be to raise
money with a 5K race. They mapped out a route, set a date, reserved a
park and put together sponsorship packets for local businesses. Zach
also secured donations of food and refreshments, and held a contest for
kids at local schools to determine the design of the event’s official
T-shirt. Zach had to undergo surgery just a month before the race, but
despite having not walked in seven months, he managed to walk the entire
course on race day, crossing the finish line to cheers and tears. More
than 250 people participated in the event, and enough money was raised
to purchase gaming systems for every room at the children’s hospital.
Zach’s “Action for Distraction 5K” has been staged twice since then,
raising more funds for other forms of distraction at the hospital, such
as art and music programs, as well as for upkeep of its gaming systems.

As State Honorees, Benjamin and Zachary 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 six other New Jersey students as
Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service
activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are New Jersey’s Distinguished Finalists for 2016:

Siobhan Hunziker, 16, of Westfield, N.J., a sophomore at Union
Catholic Regional High School, raised $22,645 to provide four wishes for
children with life-threatening medical conditions in the past two years
by hosting a charity walk called “BILLieve,” named after her father
Bill, who died from cancer in 2013. Siobhan, who donated proceeds to the
Make-A-Wish Foundation, worked with county officials to get approval to
use a local park, created a funding website, ordered T-shirts, and was
able to pick four recipients to receive wishes with the funds raised.

Alexandra Jackman, 16, of Westfield, N.J., a junior at Westfield
Senior High School, created a short film called “A Teen’s Guide to
Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism,” which has been
viewed by 56,000 people in schools, universities and organizations
throughout the world and is integrated into New Jersey’s anti-bullying
“Week of Respect” program. Alexandra, who made the film in 2013 after
several years working with children on the autism spectrum, has recently
created a Spanish language version, and has also begun giving
presentations about autism awareness and helping to train people who
work with children with autism.

Shefali Kumar, 16, of Denville, N.J., a junior at The Academy for
Math, Science & Engineering at Morris Hills High School in Rockaway, has
helped to raise $35,000 since 2013 to benefit a number of charitable
organizations as the co-founder of “Youtopia,” an organization dedicated
to making the world a better place. Shefali, who volunteers at the local
hospital and is active in student government, also worked with a friend
to create lesson plans and host a free, two-week summer robotics and
computer programming camp for middle school students.

James Saccone, 18, of Randolph, N.J., a senior at Randolph High
School, is the regional coordinator of “Sports Equipment Neighborhood
Drive (SEND),” for which he established four permanent drop-off
locations and conducted community outreach that collected 300 pieces of
soccer equipment, which were donated to children in need around the
world. In addition, James founded the Italian Club and has spearheaded a
number of fundraisers to help raise nearly $13,000 to benefit the
organization Feeding America.

Amalia Tobias, 17, of Summit, N.J., a junior at Summit High
School, founded her school’s Family Promise Club, for which she
organized a scavenger hunt fundraiser that yielded $22,000 to support
Family Promise, an organization that provides food and temporary shelter
to families who are homeless through an interfaith network of religious
houses of worship across the country. Amalia, who has volunteered for
Family Promise since she was a child, is currently working with the
organization to develop high school clubs like hers throughout the

Matthew Weiss, 17, of Tenafly, N.J., a senior at Tenafly High
School, has spent the past six years advocating for those on the autism
spectrum, a passion that developed after meeting a boy with autism in
the sixth grade. Matthew, who spends his study hall periods volunteering
with his school’s program for students with autism, raised $3,000
selling autism awareness bracelets to purchase iPads for children at the
REED Academy school for children with autism spectrum disorders, and
also volunteers at a summer camp for children with autism and other
special needs.

“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