BUSINESS WIRE – Virginia’s top two youth volunteers of 2016, Reshini Premaratne, 17, of Glen Allen and Chase Anthony, 13, of Virginia Beach, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 21st annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Reshini and Chase – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Reshini and Chase Virginia’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.
Reshini, a member of the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence/HandsOn Greater Richmond and a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor School, founded a youth service organization in 2010 that has raised $10,000 for the homeless, donated more than 450 pounds of goods, and spread to more than 20 schools throughout Virginia. Six years ago, Reshini volunteered to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her city’s homeless, and discovered that many of the perceptions she’d had about homeless people were wrong. “Many students, especially those that live in the suburbs, are not exposed to the homeless on a daily basis,” she said. With her new appreciation for the plight of homeless people, Reshini resolved to “help my community see beyond their own misconceptions, too,” she said.
Reshini’s organization, “X-Out Homeless,” started with a one-day event at her middle school that focused attention on the issue of homelessness both locally and nationally. Since then, she has organized a wide variety of fund- and awareness-raising activities, including charity figure skating shows, a special “homelessness week” at schools, and events at local businesses. In addition, Reshini started a program last spring that brings together high school students and homeless individuals to learn computer programming and “to foster a community of trust, tolerance and understanding,” she said.
Chase, a seventh-grader at Princess Anne Middle School, launched a fundraising drive three years ago that has yielded more than $30,000 to battle breast cancer, after his third-grade teacher was diagnosed with the disease. When Chase found out about his teacher’s illness, he decided to ask for monetary donations instead of gifts on his 10th birthday. Sadly, his teacher died the month before. “She was a great teacher who taught me to never ever give up,” said Chase. So he didn’t.
After collecting his initial funds at his birthday party, he began organizing events to raise more money for a regional affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. With the help of up to 20 friends at six different schools, Chase has operated lemonade stands, held car washes, conducted raffles, sold T-shirts, and started an annual dodgeball tournament. Last year, he got his whole school to celebrate a “pink day” in support of his campaign, complete with a “pink” pep rally and a “pink” football game. Chase said he gets joy out of helping others and trying to make his late teacher proud.
“By using their time and talents to better their communities, these young people have achieved great things – and become examples for us all,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to an exemplary group of honorees.”
“These students have demonstrated a truly remarkable level of leadership and commitment in the course of their volunteer service, and it’s an honor to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Michael Allison, president of NASSP. “We commend each and every one of them for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2016 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 29,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
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 21 years, the program has honored more than 115,000 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 or www.nassp.org/spirit.