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Guest Post: Youth Volunteer Honors

Today I have a guest post from Valerie Cardaci about the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.  I found it interesting and inspiring how these two award winners were using art to volunteer in their community.  I thought it was cool that you can visit the website and search by state to see award winners and descriptions of the volunteering they have done. 

In addition to the recognition, the honorees can win $1000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.  Keep this contest in mind next year to nominate your students that have done excellent volunteering.

Sidenote:  My dad used to work for Prudential years ago, so seeing that this award program was sponsored by them was a personal connection for me.  It’s never too early to start saving for retirement, lol!  In fact, the earlier, the better.  

Youth volunteers honored by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for Using Art to Make a Difference

 

As art lovers, we can’t help but be inspired when we hear about young people making a difference through art. All across the country, students are bringing joy to others through the visual arts – and a few of them have been honored as their states’ top youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

 Prudential Logo

Meet Virginia Newsome, a high school senior who was named one of Kentucky’s top two youth volunteers of 2013. The 17-year-old 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.

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Virginia is not the only teenager bringing the joy of art to those in need. Kahlil Epps, a high school junior named one of Washington, D.C.’s top two youth volunteers of 2013, co-founded “Project SnapShot” to use his skills as a photographer to preserve holiday memories for children and families in need. Working with law enforcement, local community groups and government agencies that sponsor holiday events for children, Kahlil and a friend take individual and group portraits at each event and distribute prints within minutes. They then create a slide show of each event for the sponsor and attendees. “I knew that many children and their families do not have the opportunity to take photographs on special holidays due to financial constraints,” said Kahlil, 16. “We are dedicated to filling that void in the lives of D.C.’s most vulnerable children and families.”

 

To start the project, Kahlil and his friend researched local agencies and began spreading the word that they would be available to take pictures at special events. After shooting an event and printing out pictures for the children and parents, Kahlil spends hours compiling every single photograph taken and creating a slide show accompanied by just the right music. “The community groups really appreciate the slide shows,” he said. “They often use them to share with funders and local partners to support future activities.” Recently, Kahlil has donated his services at a local police station’s annual Halloween children’s party, a turkey giveaway at Thanksgiving and several Christmas parties. This summer, “Project SnapShot” will be on hand to take team photos of children who participate in D.C.’s recreational summer swim program.

 

These are just two examples of the drive and spirit demonstrated by the youth volunteers honored in the 18th annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. As the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service, the awards have honored more than 100,000 young Americans over the past 18 years. Each year, the program’s judges select two State Honorees and a handful of Distinguished Finalists in each state and the District of Columbia. The 102 State Honorees earn awards including an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. where, on Monday, May 6th, 10 of this year’s State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013.

 

To show your support and see those 10 young heroes receive their awards live, I encourage you to tune into the webcast event on May 6th to show your support! Register for the webcast here:http://bit.ly/YN1OLU

 

More information on these and other remarkable youth service projects can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com.

 

You can also head on over to Facebook and “like” the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards,follow the program on Twitter, and visit its YouTube page to hear former honorees talk about volunteering in their own words.

 

Together, let’s promote health, fitness, and the impact volunteering can have on us all!

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About Marcia Beckett

Marcia is an elementary art teacher and loves painting, drawing, sculpture, art journaling and clay. Her blog, Art is Basic, features many exciting art projects for kids.
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