Students pick up awards in nation’s capital
Two area students James Bailey, 17, a Tonganoxie High School senior, and Sophia Evans, 14, of Baxter Springs were honored earlier this month in the nation's capital for their outstanding volunteer work during the presentation of The 2007 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
The two people - along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country - received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Indianapolis Colts quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning at the 12th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
James and Sophia were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Kansas in 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 the recognition events.
Conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created 12 years ago by Prudential Financial Inc. to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. Since then, the program has honored more than 75,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
"James and Sophia have demonstrated a level of compassion, dedication and achievement that is truly exceptional," said Arthur F. Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc. "We are proud to give them the recognition they so richly deserve, and hope that their example will inspire other young people to become actively involved in their own communities."
James organized a community effort to assemble and ship more than 700 "care packages" to American troops serving in Iraq.
Sophia, an eighth-grader at Baxter Springs Middle School, has collected more than $5,000 and two tons of pet food over the past three years to care for homeless animals in her community, while educating the public about ways to reduce the problem. Sophia decided to launch her "Paws for a Cause" campaign after visiting a local pet shelter. "I have a passionate love for animals," she said. "When I saw some of the conditions they had to live with in shelters, I was heartbroken."
Approximately 20 other volunteers have joined her effort, which she plans to continue until her city is stray-free.