Annie Farrell, 18, of Miami was one of two Florida students honored in the nation’s capital recently for outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Farrell and Chase Hartman, 11, of Tampa — along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country — each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Annie and Chase Florida’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, DC, for four days of recognition events.
Farrell, a member of the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida and a senior at Coral Gables High School, organized three college-prep workshops to help about a dozen students who had aged out of foster care navigate the complicated and often overwhelming college application process.
“As the daughter of a first-generation college student, I’m aware not everybody lives with the expectation that college is the next step,” Farrell said.
Since she was about to begin applying to colleges, she thought she could help some at-risk teens by taking them through the process with her.
First, Farrell researched the application process and collected tips for success. Then she recruited two University of Miami admissions counselors, three Miami Herald writers, and the education director of a local cultural center to help her conduct three workshops for residents of Casa Valentina, a nonprofit that houses and assists young people who are too old to remain in foster care.
At the first workshop, the college counselors explained how to complete a college application and the residents were provided with the tips and information that Farrell had compiled. At the next two sessions, the newspaper writers addressed how to brainstorm topics for application essays, and helped each student craft an essay.
Farrell also created a “college cubby” at Casa Valentina stocked with college guides, binders and test preparation books, and gave each student a college sweatshirt to symbolize the path they had embarked upon.
“These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future,” said John Strangfeld, chair and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc.
“Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers,” he added.
“It’s a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they’ve set for their peers,” said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. “These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.