The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

What is The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards?
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is designed to recognize students in middle and high school grades who have demonstrated exemplary, self-initiated community service. The award program is sponsored by The Prudential Insurance Company of America and administered by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Two young Americans -- one high school student and one middle-level student in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico -- were named State Honorees in the 1998 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. These honorees receive $1,000 awards, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May 1998 for four days of recognition events.

How does the program work?
Applications are solicited each fall through more than 35,000 public and private middle-level and high schools throughout the U.S. Local honorees are selected at participating schools in November, and from these winners, two top individuals are chosen in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Finally, 10 National Honorees are picked by a panel of prominent judges, and announced at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., in May.

Who may apply?
Any individual who is 11 to 18 years old or in grades 5 through 12 at the time of the application deadline each year (except for employees of NASSP, Prudential and other participating firms and their children).

What qualifications must be met?
The application:

  • must describe an individual community service activity, or an individual's significant leadership in a group activity, that has taken place during the previous year.
  • must be completed and submitted to the school principal by October 30.

What do honorees win?

  • School Honorees receive a certificate of recognition from their schools.
  • State Honorees receive an award of $1,000, a silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC for a national recognition event.
  • National Honorees receive an additional award of $5,000, a gold medallion and a trophy for their schools.

1997 The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
New Jersey Honorees

James Calister
James Calister, 17, of Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, recognized a need to promote an attitude of acceptance and racial harmony in an area that was slowly changing from an all-white, affluent community to one consisting of residents from many races and economic backgrounds. Prejudice and fear drove many long-time residents out of town, and heightened anger among many adults and youth. James began attending community planning meetings and Board of Education meetings, where he learned how to influence decision-makers to help in his fight against racism. He joined the Racial Balance Task Force, and won an election for Student Council President based on his promise to improve relations within the schools and the community. In addition, James spends much of his free time helping to coordinate various community and school-wide events, such as Diversity Day and Martin Luther King Day, which help to promote diversity. "As long as others continue the work that I and others like me have begun, eventually there will be a fundamental shift in the community's outlook on diversity," he said.

Brett Newton
Brett Newton, 13, of Long Valley Middle School in Long Valley, New Jersey, overcame a bout with cancer and, inspired by his experience, decided to help other children by performing in an educational video produced by Overlook Hospital. Brett, who had performed in community theatre before becoming ill, was quick to volunteer when the hospital approached him about the video. "The video will help families and kids with cancer; all they have to do is watch to learn," said Brett. He also performed in a benefit show that raised $700,000 for the Hole In the Wall Camp, which Brett attended with other children diagnosed with cancer. He practiced many hours and performed alongside celebrities like Julia Roberts, Carole King, and Paul Newman, whom Brett would like to emulate one day. If Brett's acting talent makes him famous, he would like to continue making time to help those in need, just like Newman.

Distinguished Finalists

  • Lilianne Cooper, 17, Academy of the Holy Angels, Demarest, started a program called Happy…To You to provide birthday and holiday cards to special-needs kids in her area.
  • Andrew Slifko, 16, Rancocas Valley Regional High School, Mount Holly, trains seeing-eye dogs for the blind through the Seeing Eye program.
  • Jamie Garbacki-Cattanese, 10, Pequannock Valley Middle School, Pompton Plains, brought dinner to her neighbor and his wife, who suffered from leukemia, everyday during their time of need.
  • AshLee Drozd, 12, Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School, Bridgewater, started Helping Paws to collect and recycle aluminum cans to raise money for the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter's medical fund.

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