Feb. 4, 2020 – Anik Willig, 17, of Miami and Dominic Fouche, 13, of Tampa today were named Florida’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Anik and Dominic 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 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Florida’s top youth volunteers of 2020:
High School State Honoree: Anik Willig
Nominated by Coral Reef Senior High School
Anik, a senior at Coral Reef Senior High School, organized a weekly reading program at a homeless shelter, pairing student tutors from her high school with young readers to improve their literacy skills during a time in their lives when academic development is often disrupted. When Anik was in middle school, she volunteered at the Chapman Partnership Homeless Shelter to help put on a play and found that many of the children there could not read their scripts. “I soon learned that homeless children experience a lot of inconsistencies in their education as a result of often moving between shelters and subsequently switching schools many times in the period of one year,” said Anik. To address this issue, she created an organization called “H.E.R.O.” (Homeless Empowerment and Reading Opportunities).
Once a week, Anik and students she has recruited through various clubs at school provide one-on-one tutoring for an hour at the homeless shelter. She brings an assortment of books, allowing each child to choose an age-appropriate one. Also, to motivate them, she gives each young reader a token after 15 minutes of reading, which they can use at the end of the session to “purchase” a toy or other item from a gift shop she sets up. In addition to scheduling volunteers and working with the shelter’s staff to coordinate activities, Anik has organized several book and toy drives to keep her program well-supplied. She estimates that she and her volunteers have made a difference in the lives of several hundred children in her community, and has laid the groundwork for nearby counties to adopt similar programs.
Middle Level State Honoree: Dominic Fouche
Nominated by Walker Middle Magnet School
Dominic, an eighth-grader at Walker Middle Magnet School, works with his family on the activities of a nonprofit called “Kids 4 A Cause,” with a goal of raising at least $1,000 a month to support a variety of charities and causes. “I was raised in a family that always placed a high value on community service,” said Dominic. When his family lived in South Africa, they frequently supported orphanages and food programs in underserved communities, inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela, he said. After immigrating to the U.S., “we wanted to continue to be of service.”
In his role at Kids 4 A Cause, Dominic spends time researching organizations that need support, developing and selling products such as organic soaps and essential oils to raise money, promoting his organization’s mission through speeches and news media coverage, and recruiting local businesses to help. Some of the organization’s projects include: donating $1,000 to buy food and basic necessities for a children’s home; sponsoring eight children for a grief camp; helping to clean up around the Hillsborough River; supplying 145 supply bags for people experiencing homelessness; and donating $3,000 to provide necessary items and help cover expenses for patients undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. “The most memorable moment each month is when the check is presented to the organization we are supporting,” said Dominic. “The happiness and gratitude on everyone’s faces gives me great joy.”
The program judges also recognized eight other Florida students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Florida’s Distinguished Finalists for 2020:
Jordan Brown, 17, of Jacksonville, Florida, a senior at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, co-founded and helps run “Homeless Students Empowered through Leadership Partnership and Service (H.E.L.P.S),” which has raised more than $125,000 to benefit students experiencing housing insecurity. H.E.L.P.S. raised money by holding telethons as well as a celebrity basketball game, for which Jordan helped advertise the event, secure corporate sponsorships and recruit celebrity participants.
Alexis Dorman, 16, of Orlando, Florida, a junior at Orlando Science Middle/High Charter School, founded “Career Aid for Young Immigrants and Refugees (CAFYIR),” a nonprofit organization through which she has held academic workshops for nearly 50 young people; her efforts include soliciting donations, securing learning space and supplies, and recruiting volunteers. Alexis started her project after learning about the lack of programs specifically designed to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee students.
Joseph Justice, 18, of Ormond Beach, Florida, a senior at Seabreeze High School, has volunteered hundreds of hours of his time volunteering with students who have special needs, both as a United athlete and as an officer of his school’s Best Buddies club; along with participating in practices and games, he helps his teammates while travelling for competitions. Joseph’s Unified basketball team won a bronze medal in the 2018 Special Olympic USA Games.
Chase Magnano, 17, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a senior at Ponte Vedra High School, co-founded “Teens Helping Refugees Integrate Via Engagement (JaxTHRIVE),” a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 85 refugee students in the Jacksonville area with programming focused on English, STEAM and career and life skills. Chase’s efforts include raising more than $50,000, recruiting volunteers, collaborating with other local community organizations and establishing JaxTHRIVE chapters in several schools.
Amira Mansuri, 16, of Miramar, Florida, a junior at Everglades High School, is the vice president of “Broward County Council of Muslim Student Associations (BCC-MSA),” through which she spreads knowledge about Islam and helps organize a series of fundraising and community events, including beach cleanups, a senior citizen ball, car washes and a henna tattoo event. Amira is also lobbying her local school board to establish the Muslim celebration of Eid as an official holiday.
Victoria Orcutt, 18, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, a senior at Fort Walton Beach High School, created “Vikings Take Five to Save Lives” to promote mental health awareness during Suicide Prevention Week at her high school; she and volunteers put up posters, organized a hand-painting activity, put positive notes on students’ lockers and organized a “mile for mental health” run. Victoria was inspired to start this project after losing a friend to suicide.
Daniela Tejada, 16, of Plantation, Florida, a junior at Pine Crest School, founded the “Meds4Kidz Foundation,” a nonprofit that donates medicine and urgent care supplies to benefit children in need in Bolivia; her efforts including making and selling bracelets, organizing a fundraising 5K race and securing partnerships from local businesses. Daniela also also held drives to support hurricane relief in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.
Colin Wanless, 16, of Boca Raton, Florida, a sophomore at American Heritage School of Boca Delray, serves as president of his local chapter of Joshua’s Heart Foundation; his efforts include raising awareness of food insecurity, recruiting volunteers, setting up food drives, soliciting donations from local businesses and farmers, and hosting fundraising events. Since first becoming involved with the organization in 2009, Colin has raised more than $11,000 and distributed more than 200,000 meals.
“In our 25th year of honoring young volunteers, we are as inspired as ever by the work students are doing to address the needs of a changing world,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We hope that their resolve, their initiative and their perspectives on society’s challenges move others to consider how they can make a difference, too.”
“Middle level and high school students are doing remarkable things to shape the future of their communities through volunteer service. They inspire all students and schools to drive learning with real-world challenges,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each of the 2020 honorees – it’s an honor to celebrate your commitment to creating positive change.”
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 Points of Light Global Network members, 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 May 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 130,000 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 and Brazil. 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.