Armani McFarland, 15, of Farr West and Gabbie Lundberg, 11, of South Jordan were named Utah'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, Armani and Gabbie 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 Utah's top youth volunteers of 2019:
High School State Honoree: Armani McFarland
Nominated by Weber High School
Armani, a sophomore at Weber High School, has conducted 27 collection and fundraising drives over the past seven years that have yielded more than 6,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies for children from low-income families, as well as food, books, toys, clothing and hygiene items for other individuals and families in need. When she was in the third grade, Armani heard from her teacher that there were kids in their own community who went to bed hungry at night. "That thought broke my heart," she said. Her response: a food drive that collected 1,000 pounds for a local food bank.
Shortly thereafter, Armani began collecting backpacks and school supplies for kids in need. Many other projects followed, and in 2016, Armani founded a nonprofit, "One Can Make a Change." To conduct her collection and fundraising initiatives, she seeks donations through her website, solicits support from local businesses, and arranges activities such as raffles, bake sales, barbecues and lemonade stands. In addition to her food drives and annual backpack project, Armani has provided books to kids, stuffed animals to traumatized and injured children, and clothing and toiletries to the homeless. Recently, Armani helped pay for a new $12,000 roof on a teen shelter in Ogden. She also has traveled to Ghana with an international nonprofit to help install a water tank and to spend time with children at an orphanage. "Volunteering is not always easy, exciting or fun," said Armani. "Sometimes it's really hard. But it has always been worth it. I am constantly motivated by the smiles that the much-needed items bring to so many faces."
Middle Level State Honoree: Gabbie Lundberg
Nominated by North Star Academy
Gabbie, a sixth-grader at North Star Academy, organized a day camp in her basement for children in her neighborhood in order to raise money for refugees in Utah. Gabbie has loved babysitting kids for as long as she can remember. Watching her mother volunteering on behalf of refugees, she tried to think of a way that she could help, too. Then an idea came to her in the middle of the night: She could combine her love of children with her desire to assist refugees by hosting a daycare event and then donating the proceeds.
The next day, Gabbie began making a flier to advertise her "Camp Awesome" for kids 4 to 7 years old. She distributed it around her neighborhood, tidied up her basement, and gathered toys, games and music. Soon her phone started ringing with calls from parents wanting to enroll their children. "I had a whopping 38 kids who wanted to come to camp!" Gabbie said. Realizing that that was too many kids for one person to handle, she recruited a friend to help supervise. The camp featured dancing, singing, game-playing and other fun activities, plus certificates and awards that Gabbie spent hours preparing. She also had to make sure that all the children got along and that those who were sad being away from home got special attention. Camp Awesome raised almost $200, which Gabbie donated to a Utahorganization that supports refugee families. She plans to hold her camp again this summer.
The program judges also recognized four other Utah students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Utah's Distinguished Finalists for 2019:
Raymond Briener, 18, of Kanab, Utah, a senior at Kanab High School, led a search team in his local community, helping his local police force to look for a 19-year-old man who had gone missing. Using social media to spread awareness of the situation and to recruit more than 30 volunteers, Raymond distributed maps to the search team, outlined the areas where the man had last been seen and then led a nearly 12-hour search.
Noah Dansie, 17, of Provo, Utah, a senior at Provo High School, serves his high school community in a variety of ways, including through his involvement in student government, National Honor Society, Hope Squad and marching and jazz band. Currently serving as student body president, Noah also helped organize a drive that collected more than 77,000 cans of food for Utah's Food & Care Coalition, and played a leadership role planning his high school's first-ever homecoming parade and tailgate.
Caleb O'Neill, 18, of North Ogden, Utah, a senior at Weber High School, served as a builder during a humanitarian trip, teaching English and working with local residents to complete a new school building in Battambang, Cambodia. To prepare for his trip, Caleb learned about Cambodian culture and history, prepared English lessons, and raised money to finance his trip by making and selling bath bombs and completing odd jobs in his community.
McCall Tebbs, 18, of Panguitch, Utah, a senior at Panguitch High School, raised more than $70,000 to help offset the medical expenses not covered by insurance for her nephew, who received surgery for spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. McCall raised money by organizing fundraising events such as a basketball tournament, bake sale, rodeo and auction, as well as by selling T-shirts and spreading awareness about her nephew and his story.
"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."
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 affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network, 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 6, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2019. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 125,000 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.