NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Jace Johnson, 18, of Kamiah and Christopher Jones, 12, of Boise today were named Idaho's top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America's largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

As State Honorees, Jace and Christopher will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program's virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America's top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.

"We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year," said Charles Lowrey, Prudential's chairman and CEO. "We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community's Class of 2021, and all the ways they're making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live."

These are Idaho's top youth volunteers of 2021:

High School State Honoree: Jace Johnson
Nominated by Kamiah High School

Jace, a senior at Kamiah High School, played a leadership role in opening a teen center in his small rural community to provide local youth with a safe, fun alternative to substance abuse. Jace said his volunteering "sprouted from watching my community slowly deteriorate into a town riddled with drugs, crimes, and everything in between." As president and a founding member of the town's youth advisory board, Jace knew that with only a four-day school week and few extracurricular activities, it was too easy for young people to slip into drug and alcohol abuse. "I realized that not only did teens need activities to partake in, they needed a safe place to go," he said.

So in 2017, he and fellow advisory board members decided to start raising money to open a teen center, primarily by hosting lunches and applying for grants. It took about a year to collect enough funds to rent space, furnish it, pay for utilities and buy supplies. Then community members donated a pool table, televisions, furniture, games and other items. Since opening in September 2019, the center has recorded thousands of teen visits and has hosted almost 500 youth events, including concerts, game nights, movies, theme park trips and tournaments. It also has provided classes in a wide range of activities from cooking to budgeting to sewing, subjects not offered in the area's school. Moreover, younger kids are able to spend time at the center on summer mornings to attend arts and crafts classes. Most importantly, data compiled by local law enforcement has shown a marked decrease in drug, alcohol and tobacco use among teenagers, said Jace.

Middle Level State Honoree: Christopher "Topher" Jones
Nominated by Hillside Junior High

Topher, a seventh-grader at Hillside Junior High School, has raised more than $15,000 through his "Lonesome Larry Project," a conservation initiative dedicated to saving sockeye salmon by selling sockeye-themed socks. When he was in fifth grade, Topher learned a lot about fish from his science teacher, and was fascinated by the fact that steelhead and salmon swim almost 900 miles from their home streams in Idaho to the ocean and then back to spawn. On a family trip to a fish hatchery, he discovered just how hard it is for fish to make that journey. In fact, he learned that one year, only one sockeye salmon survived the ordeal. The hatchery nicknamed that fish Lonesome Larry. "I knew this was a big problem," said Topher, "because if the sockeye don't return to their home streams to lay their eggs, the next generation of fish is lost."

So in 2019, he founded the "Lonesome Larry Project" to support sockeye salmon conservation – by selling red and blue socks emblazoned with the image of a male sockeye. First, Topher held a competition to design his salmon logo, and then enlisted the help of college students build a website. After his initial order of 2,000 pairs of socks arrived on his doorstep, Topher began selling them on his website, at sporting and fishing events, and through local businesses. All of his proceeds are being donated to the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund grants for conservation and research. The first grant was awarded last summer to build a kiosk near Redfish Lake explaining sockeye salmon recovery efforts.

State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President's Volunteer Service Awards. 

"It speaks volumes about the character of today's secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need," said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. "While we're especially proud to celebrate this year's 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who's found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give."

To read the names and stories of all of this year's State Honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com.

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial wellness leader and premier active global investment manager, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees help to make lives better by creating financial opportunity for more people. Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit news.prudential.com. 

About NASSP

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 http://nassp.org.

 

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