Mississippi's top two youth volunteers of 2014, Reagan Norwood, 17, of
Biloxi and Jonah Holland, 14, of Belmont, were honored in the nation's
capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 19th
annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Reagan
and Jonah - along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the
country - each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from
Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker at an award ceremony and
gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of
Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker congratulates Reagan Norwood, 17, of Biloxi (center) and Jonah Holland, 14, of Belmont (right) on being named Mississippi's top two youth volunteers for 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Reagan and Jonah were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, May 4 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, where they each received a $1,000 award. (Photo: Business Wire)
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by
Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of
Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Reagan and Jonah
Mississippi's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in
February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an
engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to
Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Reagan, a junior at Biloxi High School, has collected more than 1,000
pairs of shoes and socks for homeless people over the past four years
through her project, "S.O.S. (Shoes or Socks) for the Homeless." Reagan
first became aware of the problem of homelessness by listening to
stories her grandfather told about working at a shelter in Washington,
D.C. Then, one Christmas, Reagan's family took toys to a local mission.
"We were allowed to drop off the items, but were not allowed in because
my sister and I were minors," said Reagan. She wondered how children and
teens could get involved, and found the answer when a family friend
mentioned that there was a real need for shoes and socks at homeless
In eighth grade, Reagan launched her first drive to collect shoes and
socks at her school. Since then, she has held drives at other junior
high schools, elementary schools, her high school and a local military
base. She created a logo for S.O.S. and a Facebook page and a petition
on change.org to acquaint people with homelessness and publicize her
mission. She monitors newsletters and updates from agencies that work
with the homeless and passes along information about the current needs
of the homeless in her community and state, and ways to help. And,
recently, Reagan organized a collection contest at Biloxi Junior High
that yielded more than 400 pairs of shoes and socks; the winning
homeroom earned a breakfast and Q&A with stars from a local production
of the musical "Legally Blonde" - one of which was Reagan. "S.O.S. is
not a program that will save the world," said Reagan, "but by going
through our closets and donating shoes, we can truly make a difference
in someone's life - one pair of shoes at a time."
Jonah, a member of the Tishomingo County 4-H and a home-schooled
eighth-grader, led his 4-H club in raising money to purchase reusable
shoppig bags that local merchants can use to cut down on the number of
plastic bags that end up in landfills. Jonah's 4-H club had been looking
for ways to implement a community-wide recycling program, but because
his town is not near a recycling center, a cost-effective solution
proved elusive. "It was very discouraging and would have been easy to
simply forget about it," said Jonah. But he wouldn't let the idea drop.
Jonah continued to do research online and joined several forums where
people exchange ideas. "One day while shopping, it hit me that so many
merchants offer reusable shopping bags," Jonah said. He wondered, why
couldn't the stores in his community do the same thing?
Jonah presented a plan to the city council that could reduce plastic bag
use and promote recycling awareness at no cost to the city. With the
town's endorsement, Jonah and fellow 4-Hers put up a "road block" to ask
drivers to donate their change to the cause, and in three hours they
raised more than $400. The group then ordered reusable shopping bags in
the local school colors and distributed them to local merchants, who
sell them to customers for $2 apiece. Not only is the project expected
to save merchants money and reduce plastic bag waste, but the $1 profit
on each bag sold will be donated to benefit wounded servicemen, said
"These honorees are shining examples of what is possible when young
people use their energy and initiative to help their communities," said
John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "We are
proud to recognize their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the
great things they achieve in the future."
"Through their service, these students have not only made a difference
in the lives of others - they've provided their peers with a powerful
example of what it looks like to be an outstanding youth volunteer,"
said Barbara-Jane (BJ) Paris, president of NASSP. "Congratulations to
each of the 2014 honorees for a job well done."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2014
Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl
Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters,
YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 30,000 middle
level and high school students nationwide participated in this year's
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to
identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service -
and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 19
years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the
local, state and national level.
For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and
this year's honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the
leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high
school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from
across the United States and more than 36 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
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20140505006124/en/
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