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Virginia's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 16th Annual National Awards Program
[February 08, 2011]

Virginia's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 16th Annual National Awards Program

RICHMOND, Va. --(Business Wire)--

Priya Krishnan, 17, of McLean and Ethan Cruikshank, 11, of Mechanicsville today were named Virginia's top two youth volunteers for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 16th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Priya was nominated by Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, and Ethan was nominated by Chickahominy Middle School in Mechanicsville. As State Honorees, 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 several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2011 at that time.

Priya, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School, has raised approximately $35,000 over the past several years to support two orphanages and a school for rural girls in India, by recycling used electronics and soliciting donations. When Priya visited India a few years ago with her family, two girls who looked like they hadn't eaten for days approached her outside a bookstore and asked for money. But before she could give them anything, some guards chased them away. "I felt terrible," said Priya. "It kept bothering me that I could not help those girls when they really needed it." Back in the U.S., Priya and her sister decided that they should try to help poor kids in India like those two girls, and created a nonprofit foundation called "Save A Child Now."

To raise money for their cause, Priya asked local technology companies to let her have their used computers and cell phones, which she then sold to recyclers. She also solicited donations through direct-mailings and a website at Priya uses the money she receives to provide clothing, medical care, and education to 400 children in two orphanages in Bangalore, and to support a school that furnishes an education to poor rural girls who might otherwise be forced into childhood marriages. Priya's foundation also purchased new equipment for a tailor in India who lost his shop due to a tsunami, and helped pay for a critical operation for his son. "My volunteer work has helped me get out of my little circle and see how life is extremely hard for so many in this world," said Priya. "It is an eye-opener for me."

Ethan, a seventh-grader at Chickahominy Middle School, recruited middle and high school students to provide free beginner music lessons to elementary school children each week after his school district had to cut a musical instruction class for budgetary reasons. Ethan had benefited from this class when he was in elementary school. "Music is such an important part of my life and the lives of many of my friends," he said. "It is important for children to have a chance to have music in their lives."

Ethan first recruited middle and high school students who had experience with various instruments and were interested in teaching younger kids, and then placed flyers in mailboxes and ads in a local newspaper to find elementary school children who wanted to learn how to play an instrument. After interviewing all who responded, he matched teachers to students. Thirty-minute lessons are held in the teachers' homes once a week throughout the school year. In addition to coordinating his program, called "Music To My Ears," Ethan offers guitar lessons. So far, 34 students and teachers have been involved. "Our lessons help provide the student with a taste of a musical instrument so they can decide if they want to continue lessons privately or through middle school," said Ethan.

In addition, the program judges recognized six other Virginia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:

Steven Blakely, 17, of Bristow, a senior at Osbourn Park Senior High School in Manassas, has raised nearly $54,000 since 2007 to povide holiday gifts and other luxuries for children living in foster care through his annual "Swim-A-Lap" event. Steven secured sponsorships from local businesses, helped promote the event to interested swimmers, coordinated setup and registration, and participated in the events each year as a swimmer.

Jasmine Brown, 17, of Chesapeake, a member of the Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast and a senior at Great Bridge High School, founded "Today's Readers - Future Leaders," a project that has provided nearly 4,000 books and school supplies to more than 1,500 needy children. Jasmine, motivated to improve literacy opportunities for underprivileged children, worked with local businesses to place collection boxes, sorted and cleaned the donated books, and distributed them through numerous charitable organizations.

Margo Deihl, 18, of Spotsylvania, a senior at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg, and an avid spokesperson for the National Arthritis Foundation, has raised $6,000 through participation in various fund-raising events. Margo, who was diagnosed with scleroderma when she was 8 years old, has spoken before Congress as a youth advocate, served as a keynote speaker for the Arthritis Ball, and founded an Arthritis Exercise Program to provide supportive therapy to arthritis patients who cannot afford the therapy on their own.

Nicole Muller, 17, of Charlottesville, a senior at Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, helped food banks across the country collect 10,000 pounds of donations through the "Neighbors-4-Neighbors" food drive she started last year. Nicole, who spread the word through media interviews and e-mail campaigns, plans to collect 50,000 pounds of food from all 50 states in this year's campaign.

Katharine Nylund, 17, of Lynchburg, a junior at Virginia Episcopal School, raised more than $3,100 to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation with the "Cupcakes 4 a Cure" project she founded in the spring of 2010. Katharine, motivated by the breast cancer battle fought by her friend's mother, hosted a "Cupcakes and Tea Party" charity event for more than 100 people that featured cupcakes, tea, and a silent auction.

Jane Willner, 17, of McLean, a member of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital in Washington, D.C., and a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, founded "Listening," a community outreach project designed to raise awareness of the needs and concerns of the Deaf community. Jane, who is trained in American Sign Language, sponsored a series of deaf awareness workshops for 120 area teens and created DVDs made especially for elementary students who are deaf.

"These award recipients have proven that young people across America are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world," said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "Each and every one of these honorees deserve our respect and admiration, and we hope by shining a light on them, they will continue to serve as an example for others."

"The young people recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards demonstrate an enormous capacity for giving and reaching out to those in need," said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "NASSP is proud to honor these student leaders because they are wonderful examples of the high caliber of young people in our nation's schools today."

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 HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. More than 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital's landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them - five middle level and five high school students - will be named National Honorees on May 2 by a prestigious national selection committee. These 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.

Serving on the national selection committee will be John Strangfeld of Prudential; Jana Frieler, president of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light Institute & Hands On Network; Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the America's Promise Alliance; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Pamela Farr, the American Red Cross' national chair of volunteers; Elson Nash, associate director for project management at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Shannon McNamara of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Benjamin Sater of Plano, Texas.

In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will be distributing President's Volunteer Service Awards to more than 2,800 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of President Barack Obama. The President's Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States' largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. Since the program began in 1995, more than 95,000 young volunteers nationwide have been honored at the local, state or national level. Many prominent public figures have assisted in saluting these honorees over the years, including Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Magic Johnson, John Glenn, Madeleine Albright, Rudy Giuliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Peyton Manning, Laura Bush, and Condoleezza Rice. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India.

For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or

In existence since 1916, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the preeminent organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. NASSP's mission is to promote excellence in school leadership. The National Honor Society ®, National Junior Honor Society ®, National Elementary Honor Society™, and National Association of Student Councils ® are all NASSP programs. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, Va., visit or call 703-860-0200.

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, investment management, and real estate services. 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

Editors: Graphics depicting the award program's logo and medallions may be downloaded from

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