Za’nia Stinson, 13, of Charlotte and Brooke Chow, 17, of Raleigh today were named North Carolina’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Brooke and Za’nia 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 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 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are North Carolina’s top youth volunteers of 2020:
Middle Level State Honoree: Za’nia Stinson
Nominated by Mountain Island Day Community Charter School
Za’nia, a seventh-grader at Mountain Island Day Community Charter School, has provided thousands of food and toiletry items to women and children staying at a local shelter and to people living on the streets. One day, Za’nia saw a woman and her two children begging for food in front of a supermarket. “I knew what it was like to be hungry, and it made me sad,” said Za’nia, who at one time had lived in a shelter with her grandmother. She asked her foster mother for money to help the woman, who cried when she received it. “This brought tears to my eyes,” said Za’nia.
Soon after, she applied for a service grant to launch her “Z Feeds Angel Food Project.” With the grant money in hand, she began shopping for nonperishable food items. She also asked supermarkets for donations and solicited toiletries from local doctors’ offices. Then, with the help of family members and other volunteers, Za’nia packed her collected items into gallon-size “Go-Go” bags, along with booklets of inspirational readings “to let the receivers know that life will get better,” she said. When the packing is done, Za’nia and her helpers deliver the bags to a women and children’s shelter. “I always carry extra bags with me and distribute them when I see people on the streets who are hungry and need food to eat,” she said. So far, Za’nia has distributed more than 525 bags containing over 4,000 food items and more than 3,000 toiletries.
High School State Honoree: Brooke Chow
Nominated by Enloe Magnet High School
Brooke, a senior at Enloe Magnet High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $12,000 to buy classroom supplies for cash-strapped schools in North Carolina by holding bake sales. When she entered high school, Brooke immediately noticed the scarcity of many basic school supplies, and discovered that public school teachers often have to buy these items with their own money. “The strain on resources was an obstacle that made it just that much harder for teachers to focus on students,” she said. Brooke started bringing tissue boxes and unused notebooks from home, but “I knew a longer term solution would be needed.” So Brooke and a friend asked a bakery if they could resell its banana nut bread and other baked goods at an open-air market at the state fairgrounds.
Now known as the “Banana Nut Scholars,” Brooke and her partner prepare for their bake sales by securing space, ordering and packaging bread, printing labels, making posters and fliers, and designing ads. They also ring doorbells and send emails to solicit donations. With the money raised, they make a wide range of classroom supplies available to any North Carolina teacher through their website, including pencils and pens, paper products, staplers, notebooks, batteries, rulers and hand sanitizers. So far, 55 volunteers have helped distribute supplies to nearly 600 teachers. In addition, Brooke’s nonprofit has provided thousands of sanitary napkins, tampons and undergarments directly to students in need. Brooke also has contacted more than 300 national and state legislators to lobby for increased funding for public education.
The program judges also recognized six other North Carolina students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are North Carolina’s Distinguished Finalists for 2020:
Connor Bartsch, 18, of Raleigh, North Carolina, a senior at Leesville Road High School, founded and runs “100 Teens Who Give A Hoot,” a student club at his high school dedicated to giving back the community through service and donations; his club has donated more than $5,000 and countless hours to local organizations, including the CFF Challengers and the Red Balloon Project. Connor’s efforts include recruiting club members, electing a board and collaborating with local charities.
Audrey Burri, 18, of Charlotte, North Carolina, a member of Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest and a senior at Providence Day School, founded and runs “Pair Necessities,” through which she has collected more than 10,000 pairs of underwear and socks for numerous charities around the world. Audrey’s efforts include recruiting volunteers, spreading awareness of her cause, running social media campaigns, organizing sock drives and identifying partner organizations.
Maia Campbell, 13, of Charlotte, North Carolina, an eighth-grader at Jay M. Robinson Middle School, co-founded “Kidz That Care” with her siblings, a group designed to help young people contribute to their community through service. Some of her group’s projects include hosting a sandwich-making event to benefit people experiencing homelessness, making cards for hospital and nursing home patients, and collecting more than 600 books for the Habitat for Humanity bookstore.
Katherine Greene, 18, of Matthews, North Carolina, a senior at Covenant Day School, founded “Katie’s Kidz,” which has collected and donated more than 50,000 gifts for hospitalized children since 2007; her efforts include soliciting donations from businesses, running toy drives, designing mailing campaign letters and delivering gifts to 16 hospitals. This past year, Katherine recruited nearly 100 volunteers to participate in an annual packing day to sort, inventory and pack more than 7,000 toys.
Abigail Rose, 17, of Moyock, North Carolina, a senior at Currituck County High School, organized six “comfort closets” at local elementary schools, which offer free hygiene products to students; her efforts include meeting with school administrators, soliciting donations from local organizations, shopping for products and keeping each closet stocked. Abigail was motivated to start this program as a way to help students feel more confident at school.
Alyssa Thomas, 17, of Marshville, North Carolina, a senior at Piedmont High School, started and runs “G.R.A.C.E. (God Reaches All through Compassion and Encouragement),” through which she has collected and donated food, hygiene supplies and clothing for people in need, both locally and internationally; her efforts include running drives, hosting events and organizing emotional support groups in her community. Alyssa has also participated in mission trips to nine Caribbean countries.
“In our 25th year of honoring young volunteers, we are as inspired as ever by the work students are doing to address the needs of a changing world,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We hope that their resolve, their initiative and their perspectives on society’s challenges move others to consider how they can make a difference, too.”
“Middle level and high school students are doing remarkable things to shape the future of their communities through volunteer service. They inspire all students and schools to drive learning with real-world challenges,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2020 honorees – it’s an honor to celebrate your commitment to creating positive change.”
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 Points of Light Global Network members, 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 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 130,000 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.