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Prudential spirit of community awards essay help

Jun 23, 2018

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Manning and Graniteville students with $1,000, medallions and trip to nation's capital

Finalists also named in Ridgeland, Charleston, Greer and St. George

COLUMBIA, S.C., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Alyssa Gottheiner, 15, of Manning and Gracey Chafin, 11, of Graniteville today were named South Carolina'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, Alyssa and Gracey 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 logoThe Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

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 South Carolina's top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Alyssa Gottheiner
Nominated by Laurence Manning Academy in Manning

Alyssa, a sophomore at Laurence Manning Academy, organized a student essay contest and a "Community Day" to help improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the residents of her county. Alyssa's parents are retired police officers, and often talk about the challenges of law enforcement, she said. "I wanted to make a change in my community," Alyssa said. "The goal was to provide positive interactions for the benefit of law enforcement and the community." She did that through a program she calls "Clarendon County Hometown Heroes."

After winning support from her local sheriff, Alyssa began promoting an essay contest encouraging students to nominate a first responder who deserves recognition. She announced the contest by distributing 3,000 fliers to more than 10 schools and by spreading the word through a local newspaper, social media and her church. The essay winners get to have breakfast with a police officer and ride to school in a police car, while the officer featured in the winning essay is presented with a plaque by Alyssa at a county staff meeting. For her Community Day event, Alyssa attracted more than 50 sponsors and over 30 volunteers to help provide free food, games, bounce houses and police cars and fire trucks for kids to play in. "First responders work so hard dedicating their lives to our community. I want them to know how much we appreciate what they do and the sacrifices they make for us," said Alyssa.

Middle Level State Honoree: Gracey Chafin
Nominated by Leavelle McCampbell Middle School in Graniteville

Gracey, a sixth-grader at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, collected enough donations over the past five years to provide more than 100 Radio Flyer wagons and over 10,000 toys, books, games and other items to kids being treated at a local children's hospital. When she was 6, Gracey donated seven inches of her hair to support a school friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Then she happened to learn that a local children's hospital was soliciting donations, and "thought I hadn't done enough." So Gracey decided to collect money and toys for pediatric patients at Children's Hospital of Georgia.

She started by selling cinnamon rolls and coffee at her neighborhood yard sale, and then organized an annual two-week donation drive at her school, where classmates bring in toys and other items that could brighten the days of hospitalized children. Gracey also collects money from family members, friends, businesses and church members to purchase red Radio Flyer wagons, which are used to transport both toys and young patients in the hospital. She delivers her toys and wagons to the hospital each year on her birthday. "The need of the hospital is so substantial, it is an overwhelming task," said Gracey. "But when an entire community comes together, the task is so much more manageable."

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are South Carolina's Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Victoria Etheridge, 16, of Ridgeland, S.C., a junior at John Paul II Catholic School, has organized 23 service projects for young people and their families over the past five years as the creator of the program "VIC's Vision: Volunteering Inspires Children." In addition to her program's projects, which have benefited a wide variety of groups and causes, Victoria has collected toys for hospitalized kids and raised awareness of bullying.

Grace Gehlken, 18, of Charleston, S.C., a senior at Academic Magnet High School, has volunteered since seventh grade to support young people served by a charitable institute in Honduras; she has traveled on mission trips to Tegucigalpa every year and, last year, worked with her mother to raise more than $24,000 for a program to teach children how to avoid human trafficking. Grace is also piloting a program that raises money for anti-trafficking efforts by selling fair trade hostess gifts.

Isabella Muntean, 14, of Greer, S.C., a freshman at Riverside High School, was inspired by her experience being treated for osteosarcoma to start a charity that provides children being treated for cancer with toys, gift cards and other items in a drawstring pillowcase, adorned with a hand-drawn "angel of hope." Isabella has also helped to provide young cancer patients with American Girl dolls and products.

Nikole Rivers, 17, of St. George, S.C., a senior at Woodland High School, recruited and interviewed 28 local veterans to create a documentary called "Our Veterans: FOREVER Live Our Dorchester County Heroes." Inspired by the people she met at her Girl Scout troop's annual veterans dinner, Nikole led extensive efforts to identify veterans to interview, and provided her county archives and history center with the finished product.

"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 or


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

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (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

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit



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In the United States, each program year begins in September, when information and application instructions are mailed to all middle-level and high schools in the 50 United States and Washington, D.C., and to these officially designated local organizations: 

Local Honorees are selected at participating schools and organizations in November. From these winners, an independent judging organization – International Scholarship and Tuition Services – names the top volunteers in each state and Washington, D.C. Results are announced in February. 

Ten National Honorees are then chosen by a panel of prominent public figures, and announced in late April at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Several of this year’s honorees are leading initiatives to support the mental health of their peers. One of them is Kansas finalist Cameron Jones, who was moved by two tragedies at her high school to step up and make a change.

It is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot

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