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Missouri's Top Youth Volunteers Of 2018 Selected By National Program

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors St. Louis and Lee's Summit students with $1,000, medallions and trip to nation's capitalFinalists also named in Chesterfield, St. Louis, Forist... (February 06, 2018)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Sophie Bernstein, 18, of St. Louis and Katelyn Ravasini, 14, of Lee's Summit today were named Missouri's top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Sophie and Katelyn each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April 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 2018.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).



These are Missouri's top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Sophie Bernstein
Nominated by Clayton High School in Clayton

Sophie, a senior at Clayton High School, planted more than 35 organic vegetable gardens at preschools and daycare centers in low-income areas, and has conducted 175 workshops on plant science, cooking and nutrition to help financially struggling families make healthy food choices. Six years ago, Sophie built her own vegetable garden and donated the harvest to area food banks. "I was surprised by the drastic shortage of fresh produce available to families in need," she said. "Many of the food banks' shelves were stocked with cookies, chips, and even soda." After the 2014 shooting of a young man in nearby Ferguson and the riots it sparked, Sophie wanted to do something "to promote health, environmental and social justice" in the greater St. Louis area.

She began by reaching out to preschools and daycare centers in low-income communities. Upon receiving an enthusiastic response, she contacted hardware stores for building supplies and seedlings, gardening groups for advice, and high schools for volunteers. She also solicited donations from local gardening clubs and applied for grants to finance her raised gardens. Early on, Sophie realized it wasn't enough to just grow food, since many recipients were not familiar with cooking fresh produce. So, she began offering cooking and nutrition classes for families, as well as botany and environmental workshops for children. Since she began, Sophie's gardens have supplied more than 35,000 pounds of fresh produce for people in need in her community.

Middle Level State Honoree: Katelyn Ravasini
Nominated by Bernard C. Campbell Middle School in Lee's Summit

Katelyn, an eighth-grader at Bernard C. Campbell Middle School, organized a bowl-a-thon last year to raise money for multiple sclerosis research at an area hospital. When her English teacher challenged each member of her class to do something to make a positive impact on the world, Katelyn thought about her aunt, who had recently been diagnosed with MS. "I had heard my family talk a lot about her recent diagnosis, but I didn't really know what it meant," said Katelyn. So she began researching MS and learned how serious the disease is. She decided she needed to do something to raise awareness of MS and support the quest for a cure.

After brainstorming fundraising ideas with her parents, Katelyn decided to hold a bowl-a-thon. She contacted the owner of a local bowling alley, who was enthusiastic and even suggested adding a raffle to the event. Katelyn set the date and time, arranged to have T-shirts made, got help designing a website where people could make reservations and order shirts, distributed an event flyer throughout the community, and spent weeks visiting local businesses to solicit prizes for the raffle. More than 100 bowlers participated in Katelyn's bowl-a-thon and another 25 gave cash donations, allowing Katelyn to present $2,200 to the KU Medical MS Achievement Center, where her aunt is undergoing treatment.

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are Missouri's Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Hyun Bang, 19, of Chesterfield, Mo., a senior at Parkway West High School, found "Kids for Kids (K4K)," a school club that has raised more than $300 to buy birthday gifts for foster children and meets several times a month to sing, swim and play sports with kids with disabilities. Motivated by the bullying he experienced as a child after moving from South Korea, Hyun recruited 10 friends to help him promote inclusion for local kids in need.

Mary Hilton, 17, of St. Louis, Mo., a senior at Visitation Academy, is the creator of "Mary and Friends Gift Tags for a Cause," an initiative that has raised nearly $50,000 for Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital's speech therapy department and an additional $6,000 for a scholarship fund in memory of a friend who died in a car accident. Mary has mobilized schools and Girl Scout troops to help make the gift tags, a project she started in 2008 to support the hospital where she was treated for speech apraxia.

Meagan Turner, 17, of Foristell, Mo., a senior at Lutheran High School of St. Charles County, is an active volunteer who commits 15-20 hours a week to serving her school and community; over the past two summers, she has provided 14 nonprofit organizations with pro bono social media and graphic design services. Meagan shadowed professional marketers, created a portfolio to advertise her social media services, and then began to help local agencies increase their exposure.

Raegan Weber, 14, of Lawson, Mo., an eighth-grader at Lawson Middle School, is the co-founder of the "Henson's Heroes" initiative, and over the past five years has collected more than $150,000 in toys and other donations for patients and families at Children's Mercy Hospital. After receiving a much-loved blanket from an anonymous donor when she was 8 years old and being treated for a brain tumor, Raegan partnered with another young patient to bring comfort to others receiving treatment during holidays, birthdays and other special occasions.

Abigail Weiler, 16, of Springfield, Mo., a sophomore at Central High School, has been volunteering since fall 2016 with her local teen court program, helping to provide constructive sentences for teenage first-time offenders. Abigail, whose role has advanced from court clerk to lawyer, has provided services ranging from swearing in juries and interviewing offenders to weighing in on sentences, helping teens learn from their mistakes and move on with their lives.

Maryn White, 17, of Lee's Summit, Mo., a junior at Lee's Summit West High School, led an initiative to create an "art cart" at her local hospital, collecting more than 600 art supplies to provide patients with a fun distraction during their hospital stays. Maryn spent most of fourth grade in the hospital and did art projects to take her mind off things; after learning later that a local hospital didn't offer art therapy, she secured the support of the hospital CEO, then started a collection for crayons, paints, coloring books and other supplies.

"Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities," said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. "We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same."

"These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they've served they also set an important example for their peers," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "These honorees prove that you're never too young to make a difference."

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 affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network, 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 growth.

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 April 30, 10 of the State Honorees five middle level and five high school students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2018. 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 120,000 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, Brazil and Poland. 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.

For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

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. 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 Student Council. 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.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media

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SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.

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