Two Missouri Youth Honored for Volunteerism at National Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Academy Award-Winning Actress Susan Sarandon Pays Tribute to Young Heroes as Part of Four-Day Recognition Events
Two Missouri students, Alexander Kehm, 17, of Fenton and Jacob Mozer, 14, of Blue Springs, 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 16th annual award ceremony and gala dinner reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon congratulates Alexander Kehm, 17, of Fenton (center) and Jacob Mozer, 14, of Blue Springs (right) on being named the top two youth volunteers in Missouri for 2011 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Alexander and Jacob 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.
Alexander and Jacob were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Missouri 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.”
Alexander, a junior at Rockwood Summit High School, initiated a community-wide drive that has collected more than 25,000 pieces of new and gently used soccer equipment for underprivileged children in St. Louis and around the world. Alexander, who was encouraged by his parents to help others since he was very young, saw an ad one day for the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Passback program, which encourages organizations and individuals to donate soccer equipment for kids who cannot afford it. “I immediately wanted to help,” said Alexander, an athlete himself. “After contacting the foundation and finding out there was no one in the St. Louis area doing anything like this, I knew what I needed to do.”
What he did was establish “Fenton Passback,” an organization that has involved businesses, teachers, community leaders, news media, and other groups throughout the St. Louis area in an ongoing effort to collect soccer balls, jerseys, shorts, cleats, shin guards, bags, and other gear. To get the word out, Alexander created brochures and flyers, gave speeches, visited athletic equipment stores, and created a website at www.fentonpassback.com. He also garnered publicity by helping the U.S. Soccer Foundation break the world record for the longest chain of shoes, tying together 11,904 soccer cleats at a national coaches convention. Alexander so far has donated more than 25,000 pieces of equipment to a Boys & Girls Club in St. Louis; a mission for girls in East Africa; a 16-city soccer league for homeless men, women and youth; and a soccer academy that provides training to needy kids in West Africa. “I would tell others that sometimes it takes just a spark of interest in something to ignite the volunteer flame,” said Alexander. “Once you start volunteering, you will discover how rewarding it can be.”
Jacob, an eighth-grader at Moreland Ridge Middle School, has helped his family raise $500,000 over the past seven years by selling lemonade in stands throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area to find a cure for childhood cancers. When Jacob was 16 months old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system. After he recovered, his family heard about a little girl named Alex who had started a lemonade stand and was calling on others to set up similar stands in her quest to raise $1 million for childhood cancer research. “We decided to help her and so we started with a small stand,” said Jacob. “We were so excited that this small stand raised $5,000 in just one day that we decided to keep expanding the stand.”
To start their project, Jacob and his family went to a local grocery store and asked permission to open a stand at their store. After the manager agreed, they contacted local media to publicize the stand and Jacob gave interviews to talk about his experience with cancer. The following year, they decided to expand to all of the chain’s stores in the metropolitan area. They needed to recruit hundreds of volunteers to manage the stands and sponsors to help supply the lemonade. Today, more than 800 volunteers a year run 26 lemonade stands organized by Jacob and his family. Jacob also has been to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress for funds to find a cure for childhood cancers. “If a cure is found, a LOT less children will die, and then they’ll be able to explore the beauty of life without the horrible experience of having cancer.”
“Alexander and Jacob 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.”
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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Harold Banks, 973-802-8974 or 973-216-4833
Robert Farrace, 703-860-7257