Grace Beal, 17, of New Castle and Corbin Edge, 15, of Evans City were named Pennsylvania’s top two youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Grace and Corbin 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 2019.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 24th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
These are Pennsylvania’s top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Grace Beal
Nominated by Neshannock Senior High School
Grace, a junior at Neshannock Senior High School, organized an annual basketball-based fundraising event that has raised more than $100,000 since 2014 for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where her sister was treated before she died of congenital heart failure. “Lucy was the sweetest baby, even though she had a lot of medical issues that meant she would spend long periods in the hospital,” Grace said. “My family had its world turned upside down when she was sick, and when she died, I knew I wanted to help other kids and their families.” While still in elementary school, Grace began doing that by conducting service projects in her sister’s honor. She collected books for the hospital’s library, swam laps to attract donations, and gathered blankets for babies at a children’s home.
In seventh grade, she asked her basketball coaches if her team could shoot layups after practice to raise money for Children’s Hospital. She ended up with almost $6,000. “I was so excited by that outcome that I decided to plan for something even bigger the next year,” she said. Grace has hosted “Layups for Lucy” every October since, around the time of Lucy’s birthday. In the early spring, she meets with several dozen students to plan the event’s activities, concessions and entertainment. Last year, there was an elementary basketball clinic, a free throw contest, a student vs. faculty basketball game, a DJ and a magician, a dance line, cheerleader performances, face painting, food and raffle baskets. Grace approaches local and national businesses for sponsorships, oversees all aspects of the event, and meets with officials at the hospital to identify ways her donation can have the most impact. So far, Layups for Lucy has funded family outings at the zoo and ballpark, purchased Xboxes and iPads for young patients, and helped support a summer bereavement camp for siblings.
Middle Level State Honoree: Corbin Edge
Nominated by Ryan Gloyer Middle School
Corbin, an eighth-grader at Ryan Gloyer Middle School, raised more than $10,000 for diabetes patients and research last September by assembling and raffling off 75 gift baskets at his town’s Oktoberfest celebration. Corbin has been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was 18 months old. “Being so young, I didn’t realize what was going on or how things were going to change for me,” said Corbin. “I learned as I got older how it has affected my life, and I didn’t want other children to have to go through what I have.” After attending a camp for young diabetics, Corbin was inspired to raise money for the cause. He started out small, forming a team for a diabetes walk and just asking family and friends for donations. “That was successful for a while,” he said, “but I wanted to go bigger!”
After attending an event at his school and seeing how eager people were to buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a gift basket, Corbin decided to organize an “American Diabetes Basket Raffle” in his community. He drafted a letter about himself and his struggles with diabetes and took it to local businesses to solicit donations. The response was “overwhelming,” he said. Once he had collected or purchased items for his raffle, his family helped him organize them into 75 themed baskets. He set up tables to display the baskets and sell tickets, and two days later, he announced the winners, distributed the baskets, and counted his proceeds. “I had set the goal at $10,000,” said Corbin, “and when I reached that number, I screamed in excitement!” The money will be used to send young diabetics to a diabetes camp, and to pay for research into a cure, which is what Corbin wants most. “A life of no more shots or finger pricks,” he said hopefully.
The program judges also recognized eight other Pennsylvania students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Jonathan Berman, 18, of Merion Station, Pa., a senior at Lower Merion High School, is the founder of “Power of One,” a fundraising initiative that has raised $19,500 for cure-focused research at the Diabetes Research Institute, in addition to more than $4,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Eastern Pennsylvania chapter and more than $5,000 for the organization Beyond Type 1. Jonathan was inspired to start fundraising by his own experiences living with Type 1 diabetes.
Alysse Danyi, 18, of Nazareth, Pa., a senior at Nazareth Area High School, has collected and donated more than 28,000 books over the past seven years for Cops ‘N’ Kids, an organization that distributes books to children in need. Alysse made her first donation at age 10 after asking for book donations in lieu of birthday gifts, and has since has organized an annual book drive in her community and raised awareness of her efforts through public speaking.
Tyler Funk, 17, of North Huntingdon, Pa., a senior at Norwin High School, has helped raise $35,000 for cancer research through the community group he started, “The Purple Fighters.” Inspired by his great-grandmother, who died from the disease, Tyler also volunteers with his local Relay for Life every year, and gathered donations and made 150 “Hope Bags” for cancer patients.
Sarah Laible, 17, of Lehighton, Pa., a member of the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania and a senior at Laible Homeschool Academy, is the founder of “Kids Gone M.A.D.,” an organization that helps teenagers get involved in their local community through volunteering. Completing more than 1,800 volunteer hours in the past six years, Sarah has organized three 5K fundraising races and nine blood drives, and has helped distribute Operation Christmas Child boxes to children in Madagascar.
Everitt Meer, 16, of Pittsburgh, Pa., a sophomore at Mt. Lebanon High School, started the “Treasure Our Veterans” project, which has raised enough money to host more than 25 veterans breakfast clubs – community breakfast events focused on celebrating veterans and sharing their stories. Everitt’s volunteer efforts for the project include designing and selling T-shirts and lapel pins, creating informational flyers, giving speeches and designing thank-you cards for participating veterans.
Nina Sampogne, 16, of Dalton, Pa., a junior at Abington Heights High School, has volunteered hundreds of hours advocating for children who have experienced abuse, from educating students about the signs of child abuse and how to report it to collecting donations for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nina has planted 9,000 garden pinwheels and sold or displayed a total of 1,200 blue ribbons in her community to promote child abuse awareness.
Casey Schaeffer, 15, of Yardley, Pa., a freshman at Pennsbury High School-West, has organized three “Full Heart Kids Carnival” events, raising thousands of dollars in support of A Soldier’s Hands, which collects and sends skincare products to soldiers serving overseas. Casey helped organize everything from securing local business sponsorships to advertising the events, and hopes to send even more skincare kits after her next carnival.
Leah Stoogenke, 17, of Newtown, Pa., a senior at Pennsbury High School-West, spent two months writing, editing and helping to illustrate Maggie’s Box, a children’s book encouraging female creativity and empowerment—efforts that raised nearly $900 for The Campaign for Female Education. The money donated from the book’s sales funded the tuition, books, uniforms and other expenses for four female high school students in Africa.
“These young volunteers learned and demonstrated that they can make meaningful contributions to individuals and communities through their service,” said Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey. “It’s an honor to recognize their great work, and we hope that shining a spotlight on their service inspires others to consider how they might make a difference.”
“Each of these honorees is proof that students have the energy, creativity and unique perspectives to create positive change,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “We commend each of the 2019 honorees for their outstanding volunteer service, and for the invaluable example they’ve set for their peers.”