Asheville student named finalist for Prudential Spirit of Community Award

Asheville’s Seth Bellamy, 15, was named a Distinguished Finalist for his “impressive community service activities” and will receive an engraved bronze medallion. A sophomore at School of Inquiry & Life Sciences in Asheville, Bellamy helped start a club called “Keepin’ It Real” at his school to promote volunteerism among African American middle school students, and to raise awareness of racial inequities and social injustice. So far, the six members of his club have helped 20 middle-level kids find service opportunities and express their own ideas about a variety of issues that affect them.

Press release from Prudential Financial:

Simona Adhikari, 16, of Charlotte and Alexander Fultz, 13, of Pineville today were named North Carolina’s top two youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Simona and Alexander 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 2019.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 24th 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 2019: 

High School State Honoree: Simona Adhikari

Nominated by Ardrey Kell High School

Simona, a junior at Ardrey Kell High School, taught 24 girls in rural Nepal to make bracelets, and then sold them in the U.S. and United Kingdom to raise more than $6,000 for the girls and their small village. On a trip to Nepal with her mother four years ago, Simona spent some time in a school and witnessed the stark differences in the way many girls and boys are treated in that country. “In rural Nepal, more time, more money and more energy is placed on boys,” she explained. “Many girls drop out of school by the 10th grade, marry young and start families, and end up having limited educational opportunities.” Although she was only 12 at the time, Simona wanted to do something to help the girls she met at the school. “I felt that with just a little encouragement and instruction, that maybe I could somehow change the course of their lives, even if it was just by a little bit,” she said. 

Because she was very interested in jewelry, Simona organized a one-day session to show 24 girls how to make wrap bracelets with local beads and buttons. After she returned home, she arranged to have friends or family members who were traveling to Nepal bring back batches of bracelets made by the girls. Simona then sold them at conventions and found a vendor who agreed to sell them at craft fairs across the U.S. Proceeds from the sale of 400 bracelets went back to the girls in Nepal, who used the money to pay for tutoring, invest in small businesses, contribute to their households or just save for the future. With a little extra profit, Simona bought solar lamps for a neighboring village in Nepal, created a school library and purchased a loom for women to make sweaters. “Not only was this project able to help the 24 young girls that I met initially, but it actually went on to help hundreds of others in the community,” said Simona.         

Middle Level State Honoree: Alexander Fultz

Nominated by Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy

Alexander, an eighth-grader at Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, created a nonprofit organization that has donated thousands of toys and clothing items to hospitals in several states to brighten the holidays of young patients who cannot go home for Christmas or Hannukah. While visiting his one-year-old brother in the hospital around Christmastime eight years ago, Alexander was shocked to learn that most of the other kids there were too sick to go home for the holiday. “My favorite holiday was Christmas, so I thought of providing things to children in the hospital so they could have a happy Christmas,” he said.

He used his allowance and birthday money to buy a couple of toys and brought them to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. “Even though it was small at the time, I knew I had made a difference in a few children’s lives,” he said, “so I continued.” Over the following years, Alexander established a nonprofit organization called “Alexander’s Toy Trunk” and began raising money to provide more and more gifts to young patients. He has set up stands to sell hot cocoa, cider, doughnuts, lemonade and cookies; spoken in front of classrooms to facilitate school collection drives; formed partnerships with local businesses; and solicited donations through social media and a website. Several years ago, Alexander began paying special attention to babies in neonatal intensive care units, which are often overlooked by donors. Since then, he has provided an outfit, a blanket, multiple books, a toy and a handmade cap to every infant in the NICUs of several hospitals.        

Distinguished Finalists

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 2019:

Seth Bellamy, 15, of Asheville, N.C., a sophomore at School of Inquiry & Life Sciences at Asheville, helped start a club called “Keepin’ It Real” at his school to promote volunteerism among African American middle school students, and to raise awareness of racial inequities and social injustice. So far, the six members of his club have helped 20 middle-level kids find service opportunities and express their own ideas about a variety of issues that affect them.

Rachel Blanding, 17, of Charlotte, N.C., a senior at Mallard Creek High School, educated herself about vaccines that can prevent communicable diseases, and then conducted a campaign to encourage both kids and adults to protect themselves and their families through vaccinations. She taught classes at her school, her church and church leadership organizations, created informational fliers and a website, and produced a picture book to convey her message.

Jordan Feldman, 18, of Mooresville, N.C., a senior at Lake Norman High School, promotes community service opportunities for both teens and adults through a website and Facebook page providing information on more than 40 local and national organizations that welcome volunteers in the Lake Norman and Charlotte areas. So far, her website has attracted more than 22,000 views, and her Facebook page has more than 350 followers.

Joseph (Alex) Pardue, 17, of Burlington, N.C., nominated by the Alamance County Community YMCA and a senior at Walter M. Williams High School, teamed up with his local YMCA to raise $140,000 to launch a program that has served more than 50,000 evening meals to kids in need in his school district since the fall of 2017. After a picnic shelter was built at the Y to serve the food, Alex arranged for his school system to prepare the meals, and then lobbied congressmen last year to continue funding the federal program that covers the cost of the meals.

Ambica Ramchandra, 17, of Jamestown, N.C., a senior at The STEM Early College at N.C. A&T, founded an educational program designed to teach refugee girls how to create computer applications and then transform them into potential businesses. Ambica recruited three other girls to help her develop a curriculum, and several more young women to help deliver lessons that encourage the refugees to apply both technical and business knowledge to real-world social and science problems.

Malika Rawal, 17, of Charlotte, N.C., a junior at Providence Day School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has collected more than 35,000 toiletries and over 4,000 pairs of shoes for more than a dozen homeless shelters in North Carolina, and is now distributing toiletries and shoes in impoverished villages in India. The ultimate goal of Malika’s “HelpHygiene Foundation” is to improve sanitation around the world in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“These young volunteers learned and demonstrated that they can make meaningful contributions to individuals and communities through their service,” said Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey. “It’s an honor to recognize their great work, and we hope that shining a spotlight on their service inspires others to consider how they might make a difference.”

“Each of these honorees is proof that students have the energy, creativity and unique perspectives to create positive change,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “We commend each of the 2019 honorees for their outstanding volunteer service, and for the invaluable example they’ve set for their peers.” 

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