FRANKFORT, Ky.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Virginia Newsome, 17, of Lexington and Madison Roy, 10, of Louisville today were named Kentucky's top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Virginia was nominated by Lafayette High School in Lexington, and Madison was nominated by St. Raphael the Archangel School in Louisville. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).



Virginia, a senior at Lafayette High School, created a nonprofit organization in 2011 that has donated $50,000 worth of visual and performing arts supplies to schools that cannot afford them. Virginia attends a performing arts high school, where she is an actor and singer. “I have seen firsthand the benefits of making the arts available to all students,” she said. “Studies show students who participate in the arts do better in school, have fewer discipline problems, higher test scores, and are more involved in their schools and communities.” While attending a leadership conference, Virginia was challenged to find a way to help her community. Knowing that arts programs throughout the country were falling under the sword of budget cuts, she decided to create “heARTS Inc.”

The idea behind “heARTS” is that schools and individuals share supplies they don’t need with others who do need them. “It’s the best form of recycling!” Virginia said. To start her project, Virginia got her friends involved. One designed a logo and the other designed a website. Within a few weeks, she and her classmates had collected $500 worth of crayons, markers, glue sticks and other supplies for a local elementary school. News coverage and Virginia’s use of social media and public speaking opportunities soon brought requests from other schools and organizations. In addition to seeking donations of musical instruments, costumes, art supplies, puppets and craft materials, Virginia fundraises to buy new supplies for schools in need. In its first year, “heARTS” has provided more than $50,000 worth of goods and services that have benefited 4,200 children in the U.S., Haiti, Guatemala and Dominica. Virginia also has expanded her program by appointing area directors in all regions of the country and in Mexico.

Madison, a fifth-grader at St. Raphael the Archangel School, has raised more than $9,000 through the sale of two books that she and her brother wrote to benefit families dealing with leukemia and sickle cell anemia. She also participates in fundraising walks and collects aluminum cans to fight those diseases, and recruits others to join her efforts. When Madison was 7 years old, a teacher spoke to her class about an upcoming walk to raise money to fight leukemia. Madison formed a team that included her teacher. “Later, she died of cancer, and the next year I walked for her,” said Madison. “Whenever I do a cancer walk, I think of her.” But Madison wanted to do more than walk to help those with leukemia. That is when she and her older brother decided to write a book.

She began by taking a writing course and soliciting tips from an experienced author. The Roy siblings’ first book, “Flower: A Girl with Leukemia,” raised more than $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Later, an organization focused on sickle cell anemia asked Madison and her brother to write a book about that disease. To date, this book, “Petethra’s Secret,” has raised $5,000 for Faces of Our Children, Inc. Meanwhile, Madison has continued to raise money for those suffering from leukemia and sickle cell anemia by participating in walkathons and collecting cans. “It is important that we support the doctors because they are trying to find a cure to get rid of the diseases,” said Madison. “Many children have died. I want to help out to stop the children from dying.”

As State Honorees, Virginia and Madison 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 2013.

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are Kentucky's Distinguished Finalists for 2013:

Faith Call, 17, of Somerset, Ky., a senior at Southwestern High School, raised more than $15,000 to build a playground in her hometown of Somerset. Faith met with local officials who released a piece of government property to build the playground, organized numerous fundraisers to secure the funds, and recruited a team of 55 volunteers to help with the campaign from start to finish.

Jessica Collins, 13, of Shelbyville, Ky., an eighth-grader at Martha Layne Collins High School, raised nearly $5,500 in material donations to provide beds for 119 children through her service program, “A Place to Sleep.” Jessica, motivated to provide beds for people in need after watching the movie “The Blind Side,” has reached out to her church and local charities to identify and provide for those in need of beds, and has recruited a team of volunteers and supporters to assist with her mission.

Olivia Colliver, 18, of Mt. Sterling, Ky., a senior at Montgomery County High School, has collected more than 22,000 cans to M&M Food Pantry since 2005 when she created her food drive campaign, “Hope Love & Livi.” Olivia distributes letters to neighbors and friends and then makes her rounds to collect food, and uses cash donations to purchase food at a discounted rate on behalf of the food pantry.

Victoria Poston, 17, of Calvert City, Ky., a member of the Marshall County 4-H and a senior at Dogwood Valley Academy, raised more than $13,000 to support a local soup kitchen by planning and implementing the “Empty Bowl Project” in April of 2012. Victoria, who has been an avid supporter of hunger awareness, recruited a team of volunteers, secured donations from local restaurants, managed community outreach, advertising and media interviews, and worked with a local pottery store to paint the 600 bowls that were used at the event.

“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”

“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”

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. Nearly 5,000 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 May 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013. 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 100,000 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 and India. 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 http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) 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 provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, 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 http://www.news.prudential.com/.

heARTS Founder Recognized as one of Kentucky's Top Volunteers!