Academy Award-winning Actress Susan Sarandon Congratulates Manasvi Koul, 18, Of Waxhaw (center) And Casey Sokolovic, 13, Of Winterville (right) On Being Named The Top Two Youth Volunteers In North Carolina For 2011 By The Prudential Spirit Of Community Awards. Manasvi And Casey 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 North Carolina students, Manasvi Koul, 18, of Waxhaw and Casey Sokolovic, 13, of Winterville, 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 Manasvi Koul, 18, of Waxhaw (center) and  ...

Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon congratulates Manasvi Koul, 18, of Waxhaw (center) and Casey Sokolovic, 13, of Winterville (right) on being named the top two youth volunteers in North Carolina for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Manasvi and Casey 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.

Manasvi and Casey were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in North Carolina 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.”

Manasvi, a senior at Marvin Ridge High School, founded a nonprofit organization that educates people about becoming bone marrow donors, and has persuaded more than a hundred volunteers to assist with recruiting donors to register with the National Marrow Donors Program. Four years ago, Manasvi needed a bone marrow transplant to fight a very aggressive form of cancer, but could not find a match since many ethnic communities are poorly represented in bone marrow registries. Instead, she had to undergo a very long and risky alternative treatment, which ultimately proved successful. “Surviving one relapse and progressive cancer is truly a miracle,” said Manasvi. “When I got well, I knew I needed to do something for others, not because I wanted to, but because I had to.”

She connected with the National Marrow Donors Program and began conducting donor drives; developed a website; made presentations at churches, schools, and local events; and started encouraging friends in other cities to conduct donor drives. Soon, she was attracting young people who wanted to work with her, and in 2008, Manasvi created the LIVEbeyond Foundation to step up her efforts to recruit donors. She has told her story through television, radio and print-media interviews, and through a documentary film that she produced as a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Manasvi has recruited and trained hundreds of volunteers who are now working in four chapters of her foundation in the U.S. and Canada, and she has succeeded in signing up more than 500 potential donors. “In every person recruited I see a cure, I see a life, I feel hope for the future,” she said.

Casey, an eighth-grader at The Oakwood School in Greenville, has conducted a campaign over the past five years to raise money to save endangered sea turtles and to educate others about the threats that these marine animals face. Casey says she will never forget the field trip she took in third grade to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where she saw many tanks filled with badly injured turtles. “The injuries and suffering of the sea turtles touched my heart,” she said. “I just knew I had to help.” She began volunteering at the center every summer to learn about sea turtles. “I learned that there are so many threats to sea turtles and that, as a keystone component of our ecology, their potential extinction would devastate the natural balance.” Concluding that she needed to do more, Casey decided to help support the hospital by baking turtle-shaped cookies to sell at school and civic events, along with lemonade.

She then began participating in school fairs, science nights, open houses, farmers markets, and civic fairs to distribute brochures and other materials designed to educate people about sea turtles. Her campaign, called L.A.S.T. (“Love A Sea Turtle”), has since expanded to include T-shirts, websites, television public service announcements, a series of bake sales across the country, and a Sea Turtle 5K and Family Nature Walk. Casey also inspired a North Carolina coffee roaster to create a “sea turtle blend” and donate 10 percent of its net profits to the Beasley Center. In addition, Casey mentored 22 students last summer during a marine science “adventure” on the North Carolina coast. Thus far, Casey’s activities have generated more than $10,000 for rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles, and she is hopeful that an increase in turtle nesting figures indicate that the public is becoming more aware of the importance of sea turtles.

“Manasvi and Casey 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 .]

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:  http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6701249&lang=en

Copyright Business Wire 2010

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