NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Melinda Modisette, 18, and Tina Walsh, 13, both of Albuquerque, today were named New Mexico'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, Melinda and Tina 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 New Mexico's top youth volunteers of 2021:

High School State Honoree: Melinda Modisette
Nominated by Albuquerque Academy

Melinda, a senior at Albuquerque Academy, started a cross-cultural art exchange that arranges for high school students in different cities around the world to collaborate on art pieces that reflect and celebrate cultural differences. Mindful of the growing tensions in recent years between the United States and China, Melinda used to think about the issues dividing the two nations—and the many things their citizens had in common "From my many visits to China, I know that teenagers there are growing up the same as we are here," she said. Perhaps, she thought, the different worlds of American and Chinese students could be bridged through art, something Melinda is passionate about.

So she contacted five schools in China before finding a private art-class teacher in the city of Lanzhou who agreed to participate in a collaborative project. After recruiting six students from his class and six students at her school in Albuquerque, Melinda hosted discussions between the two groups every two weeks through WeChat to talk about current events and cultural differences. Then, each student was asked to illustrate, on one half of a canvas, the culture and characteristics of their home city. Next, the half-paintings were shipped overseas to be completed by their counterparts. The 12 finished art pieces, said Melinda, "show that it is the contrast between us that creates something beautiful. We realized that no matter what was happening in the world around us, we had found something with each other that was far more important."

Middle Level State Honoree: Tina Walsh
Nominated by Holy Ghost Catholic School

Tina, an eighth-grader at Holy Ghost Catholic School, has volunteered for three years as an assistant to several therapists at a clinic in Albuquerque specializing in the treatment of children. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, Tina spent several years in her early childhood doing different kinds of therapy. "I came out of all this thinking that I can help children with the challenges they face," she said. So she offered to volunteer at the clinic that had provided some of her therapy. "I love young children, and wanted to do something where I knew the environment," said Tina.

At the clinic, Tina gathers items needed for sessions, helps clients with their tasks, and sometimes creates new activities. She is particularly helpful in keeping young children interested and focused during their therapy, encouraging them to work hard and never give up. "I have to make sure tasks and activities are fun and enjoyable," she said. After each session ends, Tina is responsible for straightening up and getting ready for the next one. "Volunteering has helped me remember how much I had to work to overcome the challenges I faced when I was a child," she said, and how important it is to "continue trying and not give up."

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

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 


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


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