Anaheim student named one of top 10 youth volunteers in U.S.; Los Gatos youth volunteer also honored

Hannah Karanick, 13, of Anaheim, California, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 24th annual national award ceremony at Union Station’s East Hall. Selected from a field of more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Hannah has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.

Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Ethan Auyeung, 15, of Los Gatos. Hannah and Ethan were named California’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2019 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.

Hannah, an eighth-grader at Orangeview Junior High School, established a “closet” at her former elementary school that provides new clothing, laundry products, toiletries, quilts and school supplies to students there whose families can’t afford to buy such necessities. Her project was sparked by a boy at her school who never had a backpack and wore the same clothes every day. “He was funny and smart, but he was often teased for his hygiene and his clothes, and I saw his eyes fill up with tears many times,” said Hannah. When the boy and several other students ended up living with Hannah’s family as foster kids, “I watched their grades soar and their attitudes turn around,” she said.

Since her family couldn’t take every child in need into their home, Hannah had to find another way to help. After meeting with the principal of her old school and sending an opinion poll to its staff members, she decided to create a closet at the school where students could discreetly obtain basic necessities. She asked friends and family members to help her buy supplies, and then began obtaining items from the congregation of a local church. Nearly 50 children benefited from “Hannah’s Helpful Hands” closet in its first three months. “I am disappointed that I can’t help more kids at this point,” said Hannah, “but I am committed to expanding the program!”

Ethan, a sophomore at Los Gatos High School, has provided nearly 3,800 care packages for homeless and at-risk kids over the past few years, organized numerous activities for them, and worked to raise public awareness of the problem of youth homelessness. He vividly remembers the winter afternoon when he saw a boy emerge from a tent along a street. “I couldn’t help but notice that he was wearing worn-out clothes and his toes were poking from his tattered sneakers,” said Ethan. “His eyes were filled with hopelessness.” That disturbing image prompted Ethan to look into the issue of homelessness. “I was shocked to learn the magnitude of the problem among children and youth,” he said.

His reaction was to launch a multidimensional initiative aimed at ultimately ending the cycle of poverty and homelessness in his generation. He set about raising nearly $40,000 and recruiting 350 volunteers to assemble care packages containing hygiene and clothing items, school supplies and snacks. He then set up nine pantries to distribute them, and established partnerships with nonprofits to increase his reach. Ethan also has designed inspirational craft activities for at-risk kids, hosted an essay contest, organized care package-packing events, taught more than 50 computer coding classes and trained leaders to do the same, published newsletters, and delivered dozens of speeches to motivate young people in need and educate his community about homelessness. “My mission is not simply to provide care packages, but also to be the voice of children and youth in underserved communities,” said Ethan.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”

“These students have not only done important work in support of people in need – they’ve also shown their peers that young people can, and do, create meaningful change,” said Christine Handy, president of NASSP. “We commend each of these young volunteers for all they’ve contributed to their communities.”

In addition to Hannah, these are the other 2019 National Honorees:

Grace Beal, 17, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, 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.

Aja Capel, 15, of Urbana, Illinois, a member of Champaign County 4-H and a junior at Urbana High School, serves as the lead robotics instructor at a local science museum and has launched an initiative to give minority students more opportunities to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Alexander Fultz, 13, of Pineville, North Carolina, an eighth-grader at Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, created a nonprofit organization that has donated thousands of toys and clothing items to hospitals in several states to brighten the days of hospitalized patients.

Samaia A. Goodrich, 11, of Syracuse, New York, a sixth-grader at Expeditionary Learning Middle School, organizes projects in her community to encourage inner-city youth to make a difference, including an effort to raise money to buy Christmas presents, clothes and household goods for families who moved from Puerto Rico to Syracuse after Hurricane Maria devastated their homeland.

Caleb Oh, 14, of Gambrills, Maryland, an eighth-grader at Crofton Middle School, has spent more than 1,000 hours volunteering in many ways over the past seven years to aid people who are homeless, hungry or have other needs.

Caragan Olles, 16, of De Pere, Wisconsin, a junior at Notre Dame Academy, co-founded a nonprofit organization in 2013 that has raised more than $160,000 to provide special tutoring for students with dyslexia, create dyslexia resource centers in three public library systems, and educate teachers and parents about this learning disability.

Vance Tomasi, 13, of Tampa, Florida, a seventh-grader at Farnell Middle School, has worked with a friend to collect and donate more than 90,000 books to families, schools, group homes, hospitals and libraries over the past two years.

Allison Tu, 17, of Louisville, Kentucky, a senior at duPont Manual High School, launched a youth-driven initiative to raise awareness of student mental health issues and find ways to combat the alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among young people in Kentucky.

Joseph Voynik, 17, of Flowood, Mississippi, a senior at Jackson Preparatory School, worked for four years and raised more than $600,000 to construct a fully accessible baseball field so that children with disabilities could experience the joy of playing America’s national pastime.

The distinguished selection committee that chose the National Honorees was chaired by Lowrey and included Handy of NASSP; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA; Heidi Brasher, senior director of product line cohorts, strategy and innovation at YMCA of the USA; Brian Coleman, department chair for the Jones College Prep counseling team in Chicago, Illinois and the American School Counselor Association’s 2019 National School Counselor of the Year; Larissa Hatch, national youth engagement associate with the American Red Cross; Natalye Paquin, president and chief executive officer of Points of Light; Tony Shivers, a member representative with the National PTA Board of Directors; Rhonda Taylor, director of partnerships and program engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service; Will Waidelich, executive director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE); and two 2018 National Honorees: Michelle Qin, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, California, and Helena Zimmerman, a senior at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York.

Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 24 years, the program has honored more than 125,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.

For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

This article was released by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Left to right: Award presenter Viola Davis, honoree Ethan Auyeung, 15, of Los Gatos, and Hannah Karanick, 13, of Anaheim. Courtesy photo.