Top Youth Volunteers of 2018 Honored Nationwide by Prudential
LAS VEGAS – Samantha Schuetze, 16, of Las Vegas and Samantha Hook, 12, of North Las Vegas were named Nevada’s top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Samantha and Samantha each will receive $1,000, and engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense paid trip in late April to Washing 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 2018.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in it’s 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“We are thrilled that Samantha Schuetze and Samantha Hook have been honored for their commitment to better our community, said Linda Bridges, Chief of Communications for the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada (GSSNV). “Samantha and Samantha embody all that Girl Scouts stands for – building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”
Samantha Schuetze – High School State Honoree
Samantha Schuetze, 16, of Las Vegas, Nev., a member of GSSNV Troop 41 and a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, formed a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 600 “hand off kits” containing food and personal hygiene items for homeless youth and women in Southern Nevada. When Samantha served a Thanksgiving meal with her mother at a local homeless shelter in sixth grade, “I became aware, probably for the first time, that other kids were not as lucky as I was,” she said. Subsequent visits to the shelter prompted Samantha to do some research on homelessness, which indicated that “Las Vegas has the fifth highest adult and the highest teen homeless population in the United States,” according to Samantha.
She enlisted the help of her church youth group, a local foundation, and her neighbors to assemble 300 “kits” containing things like water, protein bars, cookies, candy, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hats, socks, lip balm and hand sanitizer, and delivered them to a local shelter for women and children. After discovering that “seeing people smile because of your actions is one of the best feelings in the world,” Samantha was eager to do more. So she established a nonprofit organization called “Helpful Hand Off Kits” and began reaching out to businesses, churches, and school leaders for help in collecting donations for the homeless. Those efforts, plus a GoFundMe account, have enabled Samantha to raise $3,000 and provide hundreds of additional kits to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
In 2016, Samantha earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting. Only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award.
Samantha Hook – Middle Level State Honoree
Samantha Hook, 12, of North Las Vegas, Nev., a member of GSSNV Troop 431 and a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy, collected small toys and other fun items to fill 200 zip-lock bags and delivered them to a residential facility where families stay while their loved ones are being treated at the local VA hospital. “Before, Fisher House did not have anything for children to play with, so the kids were often bored or sad about their hospitalized family member,” said Samantha, whose father is a disabled veteran.
Accompanied by her best friend, Samantha visited Fisher House to determine exactly what kind of gifts would be best for the young people who stay there. Then they began soliciting donations from Girl Scout troops, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the military community at Nellis Air Force Base. Once they had enough items, they packaged them all in zip-lock bags and delivered them to the manager of Fisher House, who was “very excited and pleased,” said Samantha. Included in the bags were things like dolls, toy cars, coloring books, crayons, jewelry, footballs and baby toys, plus blank cards that the recipients could use to write a letter or draw a picture for their hospitalized family member. “The project was incredibly important to me because I made other little kids happy,” said Samantha.
In 2017, Samantha earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting for girls in fourth and fifth grades.
Sedona Thomas – Distinguished Finalist
In addition to Samantha and Samantha, the program judges also recognized four other Nevada students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
Sedona Thomas, 18, of Logandale, Nev., a Juliette Girl Scout and a senior at Moapa Valley High School, created a local program that distributes kits with decals and medical information sheets for people to keep in their homes and cars, providing potentially life-saving information to first responders in a rural community 65 miles from the nearest trauma center. Sedona secured funding for kit materials from her local fire district, and persuaded three fire stations and a community center to serve as “Yellow Dot kit” distribution centers.
In 2017, Sedona earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.
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 affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network, 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 April 30, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018. Each of these National Honorees will receive:
- a $5,000 award
- a gold medallion
- a crystal trophy for their nominating school or organization, and
- a $5,000 Prudential Foundation grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice
Since the program began in 1995, more than 120,000 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, Brazil and Poland. 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.
About Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada
Founded on April 14, 1932 in Boulder City, Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada (GSSNV) is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. GSSNV focuses on four key pillars: STEM, Outdoor, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship.
GSSNV serves the four Southern-most counties in Nevada: Clark, Lincoln, Nye, & Esmeralda, as well as the Southern California counties of Inyo and San Bernardino (eastern border) and has 4,944 girl and adult members.
Chief of Communications
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