Oxford High School student Luke Kelly, a junior at Oxford High School, is one of Mississippi’s top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. [Photo credit: Oxford School District]
Oxford, Mississippi (April 20, 2017)—Oxford High School student Luke Kelly, a junior at Oxford High School, is one of Mississippi’s top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As a state honoree, Kelly will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where he 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 to the nation’s capital, ten students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017.
Kelly was nominated by the Lafayette County 4-H Club for leading an effort to improve a scenic hiking trail in Oxford and design an educational activity to enhance walkers' enjoyment of the pathway. When the University Museum at Ole Miss asked Kelly's Boy Scout troop to work on a forest trail that runs from the museum to the historic home of William Faulkner, he volunteered to head the project.
“I wanted to do something important that I knew everyone could benefit from,” Kelly said. “Everyone needs to be outside getting exercise and public spaces are free, so I decided to improve a public space.”
After meeting with the museum's staff, Kelly drew up a plan for sprucing up the Bailey’s Woods Trail and designed a nature scavenger hunt that children and families could participate in while walking along the quarter-mile path. Over the course of a year, Kelly and his fellow scouts spent countless hours trimming branches along the trail, improving signage, digging post holes, and building a bench to sit on. For his scavenger hunt, he created laminated cards and installed boxes to hold them at both ends of the trail.
Since the completion of the project, thousands of community members, college students and visitors have enjoyed the trail, and his Boy Scout troop has made a long-term commitment to maintain it, said Luke.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”
“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their work,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students.”
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 HandsOn Network affiliates, 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 May 8, ten of the state honorees—five middle level and five high school students—will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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 and Brazil. 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 www.nassp.org/spirit.
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 Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.