Illinois’ Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 14th Annual National Awards Program

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Tayler McGillis, 14, of Toluca and Madelyn McGlynn, 14, of Belleville today were named Illinois’ top two youth volunteers for 2009 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 14th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Tayler was nominated by The McGillis Home School in Toluca, and Madelyn was nominated by Our Lady Queen Of Peace School in Belleville. As State Honorees, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees – one middle level and one high school youth – from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2009 at that time.

Tayler, a home-schooled ninth-grader, has recycled nearly 23,000 pounds of aluminum since 2004, generating $18,000 for local charities and for purchases to benefit his community. “I felt that reducing the need for additional landfill space is vital in preserving my community,” Tayler said. He started by placing recycling bins at businesses, schools, and community centers in his town, and then established permanent recycling sites in eight communities throughout his county. He picks up recyclable aluminum on a regular schedule, deposits it in a huge pile in his family’s yard, and then trucks it to sell at a recycling center in Ottawa several times a year with his father. In addition, Tayler and a team of volunteers have walked and cleaned up more than 400 miles of local highways.

From the proceeds of his recycling, Taylor has given generous donations to Habitat for Humanity and a local animal shelter, where he volunteers once a week. He also purchased 700 energy-efficient light bulbs to distribute to local residents, 500 toilet-tank bladders that save water with every flush, and more than 1,000 new books for local schoolchildren. In addition, he has helped turn an abandoned coalmine into a wildlife preserve, and he has built a “bluebird trail” at a local preserve to encourage the reintroduction of this song bird. He also has given many speeches to encourage people to recycle and adopt other environment-friendly habits. “With effort, communities can and will come together for the greater good and aid their neighbors in preserving their small piece of this world,” Tayler said.

Madelyn, an eighth-grader at Our Lady Queen Of Peace School, co-founded an annual art contest for the Belleville Area Humane Society when she was in third grade, and has served as its co-chairman ever since. As a long-time volunteer at the Humane Society, Madelyn has seen firsthand how many abused and homeless animals need help in her community. “Raising awareness is one way to help homeless animals,” she said. “I wanted to make people understand how bad the animal overpopulation in our county is.”

Madelyn decided to concentrate on elementary-school students, and figured that an art contest would be a good way to teach them about the issue in a fun way. Each year, she helps to create a theme for the contest, write rules, persuade schools to participate, solicit business sponsorships, and present prizes to the winners. This year, she also headed the judging committee, which reviewed more than 1,100 pieces of art from students at 15 schools. The contest not only has educated thousands of young people about homeless animals, but also has prompted some participating classrooms to collect pet food and other supplies for the Humane Society, and has motivated individual students to volunteer at the society’s shelter. Many of these students have even adopted pets.

In addition, the program judges recognized eight other Illinois students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:

Ethan Barhydt, 18, of Deerfield, a senior at Deerfield High School, founded Youth United For Darfur, an organization that brings together student leaders and activists from throughout the Chicago area for activities focused on ending the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. The group, which pursues its goal through education, petitioning, and fund-raising, also has raised money for Sudanese refugees in Chicago and collected school supplies for children in Sudan.

Lena Brottman, 16, of Palatine, a junior at William Fremd High School, has raised more than $5,000 over the past five years for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by conducting an annual fund-raiser during the week of Valentine’s Day. Her campaign, called “Heart to Heart,” encourages students and staff members at her school to donate money they otherwise would have spent on cards and candy.

Konstantine Buhler, 16, of Lake Forest, a junior at Lake Forest High School, founded a youth-run volunteer organization that helps young people and their families to be prepared for disasters. Konstantine’s group conducts presentations on disaster preparedness, distributes informational literature and safety supply kits, and has raised $20,000 for disaster relief efforts.

Claire Dillon, 16, of Lake Forest, a junior at Lake Forest High School, founded a club at her school called “Global Connections,” which educates students about other cultures and world issues. In one of the club’s projects, more than $11,000 was raised to rescue three child laborers in Ghana. Afterwards, Claire traveled to that country on a rescue mission and took more than 1,000 photographs to create a documentary about child trafficking.

Abigail Horan, 16, of Arlington Heights, a sophomore at Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, was only 10 years old when she created “Double T,” an organization that has since provided more than 2,600 hygiene kits for homeless people, foster children, and the elderly. Abigail also puts on an annual backyard carnival that has raised more than $10,000 to support cancer research and other charitable causes, and has collected toys for hospitalized children and books for disadvantaged students.

Mary Mouangsavanh, 17, of Elgin, a senior at Elgin High School, organized a volunteer group that gathers weekly to make and distribute sandwiches to homeless people on the streets of Chicago. Mary receives bread donations from Panera Bakery, and uses her own money plus donations from others in her group to purchase deli meat and other ingredients to make the sandwiches.

Justin Salerno, 17, of Aurora, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School and a three-time cancer survivor, planned a 100-hole golf tournament that raised more than $10,000 for the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. He has also started a Chicago chapter of the Shining Stars Foundation, which has made it possible for 20 young cancer patients to take an all-expense-paid ski trip to Aspen.

Jeanne Zeller, 18, of Hoffman Estates, a senior at Barrington High School in Barrington, co-founded a school-based organization to educate people about the warning signs of suicide, after two students at her school took their own lives. The organization, called HOPE (“Helping to Open People’s Eyes”), conducts awareness events in the community and school-wide presentations about suicide prevention.

“The recipients of these awards vividly demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “They truly deserve all of the praise and encouragement we can give them.”

“Congratulations to this year’s state winners in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards,” stated Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “The hard work and determination that these students have exhibited in trying to make a difference in the lives of others is remarkable.”

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 HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past November. More than 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. In addition, 10 of them – five middle level and five high school students – will be named National Honorees on May 4 by a prestigious national selection committee. These 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.

Serving on the national selection committee will be John Strangfeld of Prudential; Larry Bradley, president of NASSP; Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light & Hands On Network; Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the America’s Promise Alliance; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Donald T. Floyd Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council; Pam Farr, the American Red Cross’ national chair of volunteers; Elson Nash, associate director for project management at the Corporation for National and Community Service; Michael Cohen, president and CEO of Achieve, Inc.; and two 2008 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honorees: Kristen Allcorn of Sedalia, Mo., and Shanna Decker of Plainview, Minn.

In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program will be distributing President’s Volunteer Service Awards to nearly 3,100 of its Local Honorees this year on behalf of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. The program is part of a broad youth-service initiative by Prudential that includes a youth leadership training program administered by the Points of Light Institute; a free booklet of volunteer ideas for young people offered through the Federal Citizen Information Center; and a website featuring profiles of outstanding youth volunteers, volunteer tips and project ideas for students, an electronic newspaper on youth volunteerism, and more (spirit.prudential.com). The Spirit of Community Awards program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Ireland.

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

In existence since 1916, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the preeminent organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. NASSP’s mission is to promote excellence in school leadership. The National Honor Society ®, National Junior Honor Society ®, National Elementary Honor Society™, and National Association of Student Councils ® are all NASSP programs. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, Va., visit www.principals.org or call 703-860-0200.

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