Ashley Geesey, 13, of Bainbridge, and Praneeth Alla, 16, of Exton, Chester County, were honored in Washington, D.C., as Pennsylvania’s top two youth volunteers of 2018.
Along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country, each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held Sunday, April 28, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The ceremony was for the 23rd annual presentation of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named them Pennsylvania’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-expensepaid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Geesey, an eighth-grader at Elizabethtown Area Middle School, raises money for sick children and other causes by working with her sister and two friends to sell jewelry through local businesses and their Instagram account. In the past, Geesey had raised money to help others through bake sales and other activities. But she really enjoys making jewelry and thought that might be a way to help those less fortunate, particularly sick children.
“I got started by picking up some jewelry and messing around,” she said. “I really didn’t have a motive. I just knew that I was a kid, in great health, and I wanted to help those who were not.”
After getting their parents’ permission, Geesey and her friends bought beads and other supplies and got to work making jewelry. To advertise their creations, they created their own company, “Jewelry-4acause,” and marketed their work to local businesses and on an Instagram account. As treasurer, Geesey’s job is to post updates and events on their account and handle the money they collect. When they started in the summer of 2016, their goal was to raise $200. But as word spread, the orders exceeded their expectations and it wasn’t long before the group had $2,000 to donate to the Children’s Miracle Network. Since then, they also donated $300 to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and are now focusing their fundraising efforts on behalf of the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer care for children being treated at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
Alla, a junior at The Episcopal Academy, spent more than 1,500 hours creating a product for a nonprofit benefiting rural villages in India.
“These honorees exemplify something we’ve known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their service.”
“Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference,” said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. “We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s 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 23 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.