Academy Award-winning Actress Susan Sarandon Congratulates Jon Austin Osborne, 18, Of Wilmington (center) And Genevieve Spence, 13, Of Newark (right) On Being Named The Top Two Youth Volunteers In Delaware For 2011 By The Prudential Spirit Of Community Awards. Jon And Genevieve Were Honored At A Ceremony Sunday Night, May 1, At The Smithsonian's National Museum Of Natural History In Washington, D.C., Where They Each Received A $1,000 Award.

Two Delaware students, Jon Austin Osborne, 18, of Wilmington and Genevieve Spence, 13, of Newark, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer work during the presentation of The 2011 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The two young people – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon at the 16 th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon congratulates Jon Austin Osborne, 18, of Wilmington (ce ...

Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon congratulates Jon Austin Osborne, 18, of Wilmington (center) and Genevieve Spence, 13, of Newark (right) on being named the top two youth volunteers in Delaware for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Jon and Genevieve were honored at a ceremony Sunday night, May 1, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where they each received a $1,000 award.

Austin and Genevieve were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Delaware last February. In addition to their cash awards, they received engraved silver medallions and an all-expense-paid trip with their parents to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.

“The Prudential Spirit of Community honorees have seen problems in their communities and around the world and have taken action,” said Ms. Sarandon. “Their compassion to help others should give us all a lot of hope for the future.”

Austin, a senior at the Charter School of Wilmington, co-founded a student-run organization in late 2009 that encourages young people to participate in humanitarian activities, and now has approximately 80 students involved in both local and international volunteer projects. Austin formed the Humanitarian League of Delaware because other school service clubs he’d worked with did not have the level of hands-on involvement he wanted. “Not only did I want this opportunity for myself, but I wanted my friends and peers to join in as well,” he said.

Soon after the earthquake in Haiti, the Humanitarian League of Delaware launched an effort called Project 10 to send 10,000 meals to victims by the end of 2010. Then, last summer, he and others traveled to Haiti to organize a children’s summer camp, assist with food distribution, and help in a clinic. On Mother’s Day, the group delivered flowers to mothers in Wilmington who had lost a child (or family member) to violence, inspired by Austin’s aunt, who lost her 22-year-old son in an automobile accident a decade ago. “As life-changing as my experience in Haiti was, Mother’s Day was just as eye-opening and impactful,” said Austin. “You don’t necessarily need to go across the world to make a difference. Sometimes, all you have to do is look out your window.” League members volunteer each week at a local food bank and at numerous other places around their community, including a Sunday breakfast mission and retirement homes. To reach their goal of raising $2,500, Austin’s group has sold rubber bracelets at school and held fundraising events such as a casino night and a book drive. “Coming together in a group for a cause can be the most meaningful and worthwhile thing you do in your life. I know it has been for me,” Austin said.

Genevieve, a member of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay and a sixth-grader at Cab Calloway School of the Arts, raised money to purchase Wii video games for Alzheimer’s patients at a local assisted living facility and then spent time visiting and playing with the residents there. When Genevieve was 10, she visited the facility with her Girl Scout troop to put on a play. The activity director explained to the girls that the residents had a disease that affected their memory. “I had a Wii at home and liked to play on it,” said Genevieve. “My mother told me that many senior places were getting Wiis because it was easy for older people to get a little exercise while playing familiar games like bowling, baseball, and golf. I decided that I would raise money and buy them a Wii.”

With the help of her mother, Genevieve made friendship bracelets that she could sell. Then she made a presentation to Girl Scout officials, who gave her permission to sell the bracelets at scouting events. She collected items from her home for garage sales and solicited a donation from Best Buy. When she had raised $420, she purchased the Wii for the nursing home and showed residents how to use it. “The first time a resident played, all the residents cheered,” Genevieve said. “When a retired Navy Seal got to parachute jump (on the Wii), he did not want to stop.” Genevieve said she would like to raise money to buy Wiis for Alzheimer’s patients at other facilities in her town. “I have found within me a compassion and emotional connection with them and have learned so much about the disease,” she said.

“Austin and Genevieve represent young Americans who have a strong sense of community and who are dedicated to improving our neighborhoods, our nation and our world,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “With great anticipation, we look forward to their future achievements as they continue to spread the spirit of community.”

More than 29,000 young people participated in the 2011 awards program last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the Points of Light Institute’s HandsOn Network. The top middle level and high school applicants in each state were selected in February, and were flown to Washington this week with their parents for four days of special recognition events.

Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 16 years ago by Prudential Financial to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models.

“The young women and men in America’s schools are nothing short of amazing, and nowhere is this more evident than amongst this year’s award recipients,” said NASSP President Jana Frieler. “They possess a keen intellect, servant hearts, capable leadership skills, and are filled with energy and ambition. NASSP and Prudential are honored to recognize them.”

More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

NASSP is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. NASSP provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society™, National Junior Honor Society®, National Elementary Honor Society®, and National Association of Student Councils®. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit http://www.news.prudential.com/

[Editors: full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions are available at spirit.prudential.com .]

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