Candonino Agusen, 17, of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2012 yesterday in a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, winning a national Prudential Spirit of Community Award for his outstanding volunteer service. Selected from a field of more than 26,000 youth volunteers across the country, Candonino received a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of his choice.
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Jackson Button, 13, of Waialua. He and Candonino were named Hawaii’s top youth volunteers, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2012 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. The honorees also received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Candonino, a junior at Kealakehe High School, helped raise more than $64,000 to buy temporary housing kits for people displaced by the earthquake in Japan last year. As president of the Interact service club at his high school, Candonino was no stranger to community service, having participated in several projects over the years, including sending care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan. However, when a massive earthquake hit Japan, triggering a powerful tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Hawaiian shoreline, he felt a new urgency to volunteer. “As bad as it was, I saw that our disaster was not nearly as devastating as the widespread damage and destruction in Japan,” Candonino said. “People were dying and desperately in need of life-saving shelter and equipment. They were suffering through cold, rain and snow.”
Candonino recruited others to help him buy “Shelterboxes” that include a tent, equipment and 30-day supplies for up to 10 people. They set up a table with collection jars in front of a local store and displayed boards showing a Shelterbox and its contents. In addition, Candonino campaigned vigorously for donations on Facebook. Within a few weeks, his team raised more than $64,000, enough to take care of 640 earthquake victims for a month. Candonino contributed another $2,000 by making a thousand paper origami cranes and sending them to Japan as a symbol of support. Candonino said, “I learned that overnight everything can change instantly, but disaster can bring people together for the good of all.”
Jackson, an eighth-grader at Hawaii Technology Academy in Waipahu, co-founded a nonprofit organization with his sisters that has raised nearly $100,000 to support a wide variety of projects aiding children in Africa, Mexico and the United States. When Jackson’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, “my family and I learned what it was like to really need help,” he said. They were so grateful for all of the assistance they received, even from people they did not know, that Jackson and his sisters wanted to do something in return. They wrote, published, and sold a cookbook to raise money to fight breast cancer. “But we soon realized there are too many kids around the world who needed basic things like food, water and medicine,” said Jackson. “We decided to help the most needy, especially kids, going through hard times.”
To do that, Jackson and his siblings have sold baked goods and organic vegetables from their garden, set up lemonade stands, hosted garage sales and sought donations. The money raised so far has been used to provide scholarships to children who have lost a parent to cancer or other diseases, and to purchase hygiene supplies for a family shelter, a solar heater for a Mexican orphanage, school supplies and backpacks for underprivileged kids in Hawaii and a therapeutic riding horse for disabled children. Jackson and his sisters also purchased a van to take HIV/AIDS orphans in Uganda to medical appointments, and bought four acres of land in that country to grow food and build a new orphanage. “We want to help children all over the world have a better life,” said Jackson.
“Through their extraordinary acts of volunteerism, these students are powerful examples of the way one young person can make a big impact,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”
More than 26,000 young people participated in the 2012 awards program last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state were selected in February, and flown to Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.
In addition to Candonino, the other National Honorees are:
Matthew Benjamin, 14, of Tulsa, Okla., an eighth-grader at Regent Preparatory School, who has raised more than $30,000 to build a home for 33 orphans in Uganda by attracting sponsorships as he trained and ran in a half-marathon last year.
Neha Gupta, 15, of Yardley, Pa., a sophomore at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, who has founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $375,000 to provide educational and other resources to disadvantaged children in India and the United States.
Samantha Kerker, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla., a junior at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, who has founded a student club with chapters in all 28 high schools in Palm Beach County to promote monthly service projects benefiting poor people, and is now working to send 60 students on a poverty-focused mission to a third-world country.
Emily Kladar, 12, of Hayden Lake, Idaho, a sixth-grader at Canfield Middle School in Coeur d’Alene, who has created a nonprofit charity with her sister that has raised more than $60,000 to benefit the families of children needing heart surgery.
Catherine Mitchell, 16, of Oceanside, Calif., a senior at Guajome Park Academy in Vista, who has created a business called “Beauty 4 Life” that enables women in Uganda to earn a living and educate their children by selling their handmade paper-bead jewelry in the U.S.
Raymond Mohler, 14, of Lynbrook, N.Y., an eighth-grader at Lynbrook South Middle School, who has created a foundation to help alleviate the pain, fear and anxiety felt by young hospital patients by providing toys and other gifts, arranging celebrity visits and assembling mobile entertainment centers.
Jordyn Schara, 17, of North Freedom, Wis., a junior at Reedsburg Area High School, who has created a nonprofit organization that collects and disposes of unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals so that they do not end up in the water supply, while raising awareness of prescription drug abuse.
Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood, Kan., an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, who has recorded and sold copies of a CD that raised more than $20,000 to build two fish ponds in Africa and a home for 12 orphaned boys in Haiti.
Ashlee Smith, 13, of Sparks, Nev., a member of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross in Reno and a seventh-grader at Lou Mendive Middle School, who has founded a nonprofit organization that has collected and distributed more than 175,000 toys over the past five years for child victims of house fires and natural disasters.
The national selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Strangfeld and included Ken Griffith, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & HandsOn 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; Jaclyn Libowitz, chief operating officer and chief of staff for Girl Scouts of the USA; Felix Rouse, vice president of resource development for the southeast region of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Elson Nash, senior advisor for strategic partnerships at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Kate Blosveren, associate director for strategic communication and outreach of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2011 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Sarah Cronk of Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rujul Zaparde of Plainsboro, N.J.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 17 years ago by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
“These young people have demonstrated remarkable leadership, selflessness and compassion, and they set a fine example for thousands of other students across the U.S. who want to make a difference,” said Ken Griffith, president of NASSP. “The actions of these young volunteers exemplify the best of what America’s youth have to offer.”
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 45 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(TM), National Junior Honor Society(R), National Elementary Honor Society(R), and National Association of Student Councils(R). For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit http://www.nassp.org .
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