CHARLESTON, W.Va., Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Kayla McKinney, 17, of Princeton and Lakyn Campbell, 13, of Parkersburg today were named West Virginia’s top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Kayla and Lakyn each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are West Virginia’s top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Kayla McKinney
Nominated by McKinney Homeschool in Princeton

Kayla, a senior at McKinney Homeschool, has performed her own songs and shared her struggle with bullying at schools, after-school programs and community centers in numerous cities over the past three years, imparting messages of kindness, hope and empowerment to more than 25,000 young people. “In middle school, I was bullied, made fun of, and couldn’t understand why others didn’t like me,” said Kayla. “I started experiencing severe depression and anxiety.” But after a classmate took his own life because of bullying, Kayla wrote a song in his honor and discovered that music could help her heal from her own painful experiences and inspire others as well.

She was asked to perform her song at a convention for the state judicial system, and then began singing and playing guitar in front of young audiences. Soon after, Kayla and her mother founded “The One Voice Project,” which organizes anti-bullying concert tours featuring numerous young musicians. In addition to playing songs for their audiences, Kayla and her fellow performers share stories of their own personal struggles and how they overcame them. After their shows, they provide take-home “empowerment packages” to reinforce their messages. Kayla also has made videos and public service announcements to reach kids around the world, and wrote a song with her band that’s been heard by thousands at NASCAR events.  

Middle Level State Honoree: Lakyn Campbell
Nominated by Jackson Junior High School in Vienna

Lakyn, a seventh-grader at Jackson Junior High School, has conducted an annual collection drive at her school over the past two years to provide paper products and personal care items for a Good Samaritan Center, following several years of other volunteer activities. Lakyn started volunteering at age 4, helping to raise money on a Relay for Life team after she lost her brother to cancer. Later, “I realized there are many organizations that need volunteers and community help,” she said. So she held a couple of book drives for a children’s welfare charity and a children’s hospital.

In late 2015, Lakyn shot a deer while hunting with her father and donated 52 pounds of venison to a Good Samaritan Center food pantry. While she was delivering the meat, Lakyn got a tour of the center and discovered it had a great need for paper products and personal care items. So she asked her school administration if she could get teachers and students involved in a collection drive. She made posters to hang in the hallways and her principal promoted the effort in school-wide announcements. Over two weeks, teachers and classmates brought in donations of paper towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, detergent, diapers, baby supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cleaning supplies and other items. Lakyn and her mother loaded them into their car and took them to the Good Samaritan Center. A second drive was held the following year. “Helping others is the most rewarding feeling I’ve had,” said Lakyn.         

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other West Virginia students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are West Virginia’s Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Quinn Raffo, 14, of Craigsville, W.Va., a freshman at Richwood High School, is the founder of “Hunger Heroes,” a program that distributes weekly backpacks filled with food during the summer to ensure that local students in need have enough to eat. Quinn has raised nearly $15,000 and recruited volunteers to support her backpack program, which has distributed more than 8,000 meals over the past three years.

Timothy Wysong, 17, of Lester, W.Va., a senior at Liberty High School, is an active volunteer with a camp for abused and neglected children in the foster system, playing a leadership role on the camp’s teen staff and supporting fundraising activities throughout the year. Inspired by a friend who was abused as a child and now volunteers with the program, Timothy assists administrators with tasks ranging from camp setup to speaking at churches to recruit volunteers.

“Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same.”

“These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they’ve served – they also set an important example for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “These honorees prove that you’re never too young to make a difference.”

About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth. 

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On April 30, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.  

Since the program began in 1995, more than 120,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China, Brazil and Poland. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. 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. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media

Cision View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/west-virginias-top-youth-volunteers-of-2018-selected-by-national-program-300592727.html

SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.