NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Griffin Thompson, 17, of Boiling Springs and Marley McLaurin, 11, of Surfside Beach today were named South Carolina'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, Griffin and Marley 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 South Carolina's top youth volunteers of 2021:

High School State Honoree: Griffin Thompson
Nominated by Boiling Springs High School

Griffin, a senior at Boiling Springs High School, founded a nonprofit organization called "Lil Lifesaverz" dedicated to improving public health and youth health literacy in his community and throughout South Carolina, through instructional health curricula, CPR/first-aid training, and free health screenings. "I am passionate about public health in my community," said Griffin. This passion led him to volunteer at a free medical clinic, where he witnessed the inequities of American healthcare. "I saw people of all ages, walks of life, and cultural groups whose needs were not being met by the traditional healthcare system," he said.

Griffin began researching public health issues, and after recruiting two professors and a public health professional as mentors, he drafted a youth health literacy curriculum for at-risk teens. Then he established a 501(c)3 organization and authored another curriculum on COVID-19 prevention, which was shared with all public school districts in South Carolina. As his initiative gained momentum, Griffin built a website and began preparing promotional materials, raising money, and attracting volunteers and partner organizations to help him teach CPR and first-aid to children and conduct free health screenings in underserved areas. He is now planning a health fair for the spring of 2021 that will address the specific needs and interests of diverse communities.

Middle Level State Honoree: Marley McLaurin
Nominated by Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success

Marley, a sixth-grader at Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success, started a service club that has raised more than $42,000 and recruited a hundred kids for over 20 service projects benefiting local and national charities over the past three years. "My mother always said, 'If you see a need, meet a need'," said Marley, "so I grew up looking for ways to help others." When she realized that her schoolmates weren't familiar with volunteering, Marley decided to form a club that could connect kids with community service opportunities in her area. But when she discovered that most charities and community groups didn't want help from kids, Marley resolved to organize her own projects.

The first one was a food drive to stuff backpacks for kids from food-insecure households. In subsequent projects, Marley led other young people in collecting leftover Halloween candy for troops overseas, creating an anti-bullying contest and assembly for local schools, and hosting a fashion show and clothing drive to benefit children in foster care. She also has undertaken projects to raise funds for families struggling with medical bills, and to provide supplies to animal shelters. "I am determined to crush the mindset that kids are not capable of more than hosting lemonade stands, and prove that kids with big hearts can do big things" said Marley.

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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