Mississippi Students Named Top Youth Volunteers in the Nation

Mississippi students Katie Rogers of Collins and Shields Haire of Tupelo are among 102 students named the nation’s top youth volunteers through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The Mississippi students will each receive $1,000 and travel to Washington, D.C., in May for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 of the honorees will be selected as America’s top youth volunteers of 2015.

Katie, 17, a senior at Simpson County Academy, volunteers in the activity room at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children and serves as an intern for the American Cancer Society, both of which reflect her deep concern for sick children. She has also traveled to Peru to teach English to children in rural villages. Katie said she plans to spend her life helping children with cancer and eventually become a pediatric oncology nurse. “My goal is to see kids smile when they are at their lowest,” she said. 

Shields, 13, an 8th grader at Tupelo Middle School, designed and sold T-shirts to help rebuild four churches damaged or destroyed by the 2014 tornado that struck Tupelo. Shields’ “Tupelo Strong” T-shirts bear the phrase “I survived the Tupelo Tornado.” His campaign raised nearly $8,000.

“This made me realize the impact that one small idea can make,” Shields said. Now in its 20th year, the awards program is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (N.A.S.S.P.)

In addition to the State Honorees, the program’s judges recognized 234 students nationwide as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities.

Mississippi’s Distinguished Finalists include:
-Mary Mock, 17, a senior at Columbia High School, who volunteered with the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans to help conduct a human trafficking awareness training for law enforcement officials in and near Columbia, Miss.
-Elizabeth Phillips, 17, of Columbus, Miss., a senior at New Hope High School, who volunteered for two years in a row at the “Joy Prom,” a special dance event sponsored by her church for teens with disabilities who would not normally be able to attend their school-sponsored proms.
-Tolar Purvis, 18, of Madison, Miss., a senior at Jackson Preparatory School, who founded “Project Eagle’s Nest,” a project that has raised $30,000 since 2013 through direct donations and fundraising events to support the building of a new floor and a garage for the Eagle’s Nest Orphanage in Guatemala.
-Kimberly Sanchez, 18, of Biloxi, Miss., a senior at Biloxi High School, who entertains patients at local nursing homes and a local hospice by playing her violin and visiting with the patients after her performances.

“These students have all demonstrated great initiative and effort to enhance their education beyond the classroom walls,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Their volunteerism not only helps improve their communities, it provides valuable learning experiences.”

JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of N.A.S.S.P., said the students’ volunteer work sets a fine example for their peers. “Each of their stories is proof of the impact one young person can have when they decide to make a difference,” she said.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. For more information on all of this year’s State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org.

Categories: Local News, News