NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Shreyas Kar, 16, of Louisville and Brenna Mefford, 13, of Carrollton today were named Kentucky'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, Shreyas and Brenna 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 Kentucky's top youth volunteers of 2021:

High School State Honoree: Shreyas Kar
Nominated by duPont Manual High School

Shreyas, a junior at duPont Manual High School, has developed software applications designed to benefit charitable organizations, reduce school violence and conserve water, and has used his experience to create a nonprofit organization that helps students around the world take on similar community-minded technology projects. As an active volunteer in his community, Shreyas was inspired to see the philanthropic response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana in 2017. But he saw firsthand how "oftentimes the donations given by benevolent donors didn't match the actual needs of those affected by the hurricane," he said. To address this problem, Shreyas developed a platform that connects donors and charitable organizations with people affected by disasters, so that the most-needed kinds of aid can be delivered to the right people at the right time.

The response was so positive that Shreyas set out to create artificial intelligence (AI) software with the goal of solving other societal problems. One employs facial recognition technology to help identify missing children and reunite them with their families. Another anticipates potential violence at schools and then notifies teachers and security personnel. His intelligent water conservation system can alert homeowners and utilities to potential leaks or misuse. Realizing that other students could benefit from his experience, Shreyas set up a 501(c)3 organization, built a website and designed a course to help high school and middle level students develop AI projects to serve their own communities. His organization currently has hundreds of members in 16 states and four other countries.

Middle Level State Honoree: Brenna Mefford
Nominated by Carroll County 4-H

Brenna, an eighth-grader at Magnolia Homeschool Academy, has sewn face masks for local businesses and her school district, baked and sold homemade dog biscuits to benefit the local Humane Society, supported a suicide-prevention fundraising event, and served her community in numerous other ways. "I get tremendous satisfaction out of volunteer service," said Brenna. "There is no greater honor, in my opinion, than to help someone in need."

When her brother told her that employees at his grocery store needed masks to protect them from COVID-19, Brenna began sewing masks for them. Then she made masks for bank employees and her school district, and sold some to support a state COVID-19 financial relief fund. While she was selling her homemade dog biscuits at a farmer's market to raise money for the Oldham County Humane Society, a customer who had lost her daughter to suicide suggested that Brenna sponsor a dog costume contest in conjunction with a suicide-prevention fundraising walk. Brenna donated dog biscuits, dog collar accessories and specially-designed face masks as contest prizes. The eighth-grader also has volunteered at a local library and food pantry, designed "Be Kind" signs for yards across her county, and made "sun catchers" for the windows of an assisted-living facility.

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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