(BPT) - It's easy to assume that young people are too buried in their phones to pay attention to the state of their communities. But statistics show that many, many young Americans are taking notice of the needs around them - and taking the initiative to do something.
Take Brandon Warren, for example. When his friend and football teammate was killed, the Indianapolis teenager started a nonprofit to take a stand against youth violence, and planned a peace walk that drew hundreds of participants. Or Hailey Richman, a New York youngster whose experiences with her grandmother inspired her to create a support group for other kids whose loved ones have Alzheimer's disease.
When last measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than a quarter of U.S. teens from ages 16 to 19 had volunteered in some capacity. And in a study of 1,200 U.S. teenagers conducted by Prudential Financial's Spirit of Community Initiative, 67 percent reported that they'd volunteered in the past; just over a quarter said they volunteered on a regular basis.
That's great news for the youth and their communities, since volunteering can benefit the givers as much as the receivers. The teen volunteers surveyed by Prudential rated themselves an average of 15 points higher than non-volunteers across a variety of traits including independence, confidence and optimism. They also reported that their service projects helped them actively develop leadership and social skills.
To encourage and honor young volunteers in grades 5 through 12, Prudential is sponsoring its 23rd annual Spirit of Community Awards, a recognition already bestowed to some 125,000 middle and high school students across the country. Applications are due by Nov. 6 for the award, which showcases students who have given their time and talents to complete meaningful community service within the past 12 months. Co-sponsor is the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
'After more than two decades of honoring young volunteers, we know students are a powerful force for good,' notes Prudential CEO John Strangfeld. 'We shine a spotlight on their service in hopes others will be inspired to follow their example.'
The Spirit of Community Awards is the largest youth recognition program in the U.S. based solely on community service. Here's how it works:
* Youth volunteers can participate by completing the online application by Tuesday, Nov. 6, then having the application certified by either their principal or the leader of a participating volunteer program (local chapters of the American Red Cross, YMCA, 4-H, Girl Scouts or Points of Light's HandsOn Network). From those applications, certifiers have until Nov. 16 to select local honorees to be presented for state-level judging.
* On Feb. 5, 2019, the top middle school and high school volunteers from each state and the District of Columbia will be named state honorees; those 102 winners will receive $1,000, engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid, four-day trips to Washington, D.C. (with their parents or guardians) to take place May 4-7.
* During special events in D.C., 10 of the 102 state honorees will be selected as America's top youth volunteers. Each winner will receive $5,000, a gold medallion and a crystal trophy for their nominating school or organization, in addition to a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation to a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice. 'Distinguished finalists' will receive bronze medallions, and runners-up will receive certificates and President's Volunteer Service Awards (if their volunteer hours qualify).
Do you know young people with impressive records of volunteerism? Encourage them to get the recognition they deserve by applying for the Spirit of Community Awards by the deadline.