Award-winning actress Viola Davis pays tribute to Honolulu and Mililani students
WASHINGTON , May 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Hawaii's top two youth volunteers of 2019, Ryan Park, 18, of Honolulu and Chelsea Masaki, 13, of Mililani, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Ryan and Chelsea – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Ryan and Chelsea Hawaii'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-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C. , for four days of recognition events.
Ryan, a senior at Punahou School, formed a nonprofit organization and school club that aim to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through hospital volunteering, fundraising and personal interaction. When Ryan was a sophomore, he began experiencing back pain while running competitively. His physician ordered tests that revealed a tumor on the left side of his tailbone. "I was paralyzed by fear," said Ryan. "As I lay on what I thought was my deathbed, I had the opportunity to reflect back on my life." He recalled that few experiences equaled the joy he felt when helping others. Fortunately, his tumor proved to be benign, but Ryan resolved to make the most of his "second chance at life."
Early last year, Ryan organized a club called "HOPE" (Helping Oncology Patients Everywhere) at his school, recruited a faculty advisor, completed paperwork for 501(c)(3) status and started recruiting members. After Ryan became an official volunteer at several hospitals, he encouraged and helped club members to become hospital volunteers, as well. He also has organized club activities such as crocheting hats and sweaters for patients, giving monthly music recitals at treatment centers, and sharing food and crafts with young patients. In addition, Ryan's club has raised more than $3,000 to buy gifts for cancer patients by selling baked goods and specialty T-shirts and tote bags that Ryan designed. His HOPE club, which now has 150 members, also has participated in national cancer-related fundraising drives.
Chelsea, an eighth-grader at Mililani Middle School, works to keep the ocean and beaches of Hawaii clean by participating in regular cleanup activities and educating others about the dangers of plastic pollution. Chelsea's father, an avid diver and fisherman, taught her to swim and dive when she was very young. "This helped me to gain a deep respect and love for the ocean and beach," she said. Like many in Hawaii , Chelsea's family spends a lot of time on the weekends enjoying the beach. But in recent years, she said, they noticed an increasing amount of plastic debris on the sand and in the water.
For the past three years, Chelsea and her family have spent many weekends cleaning beaches on their own and as part of organized group efforts, including two beaches they adopted through a local nonprofit environmental organization. Armed with garden gloves, scoop nets, buckets, tongs, knives and sifters, the family picks up larger pieces of litter and marine debris from the sand with tongs and uses nets to scoop them out of the waves. For microplastic debris, they use sifters to separate the sand from the plastic particles, gather the debris in buckets and dispose of them in garbage bins. "By removing microplastics, birds will not mistake them for food and get sick and die," Chelsea said. "And by removing marine debris in our ocean, our marine animals will not get tangled or caught in them." On her website, Chelsea posts information about beach cleanups, writes about environmental issues and posts pictures of cleanup activities. Chelsea also speaks about plastic pollution to elementary school students and visitors at the Waikiki Aquarium.
"We're impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference," said Charles Lowrey , chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "It's a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future."
"These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they've also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change," said Christine Handy , president of NASSP. "We commend each of these young volunteers for all they've contributed to their communities."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 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 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States . NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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. Learn more at www.nassp.org .
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 www.news.prudential.com .
Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media .
For B-roll of Hawaii's honorees at the 2019 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
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