South Carolina's Top Youth Volunteers of 2017 Selected by National Program

Abigail McCarter, 17, of Greenville and Harmonie Frederick, 11, of Columbia today were named South Carolina’s top two youth volunteers of 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Abigail and Harmonie 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 2017.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

These are South Carolina’s top youth volunteers of 2017:

High School State Honoree: Abigail McCarter
Nominated by Wade Hampton High School in Greenville

Abigail, a senior at Wade Hampton High School, oversaw a weeklong fundraising campaign by her school’s student body that included more than 45 individual events and raised over $220,000 for children with congenital heart defects. As a member of her school’s student council for three years, Abigail participated in many volunteer activities. But when she was elected student body president, she took charge of her school’s annual “Spirit Week,” which raises money for a different charity each year.

To be the beneficiary of the 2016 Spirit Week last October, Abigail and her fellow council members chose the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation, a South Carolina nonprofit that works on behalf of kids born with heart defects. For Abigail, this was the perfect choice; she had long watched her best friend struggle through surgeries and other consequences of a congenital heart defect. For six months, Abigail supervised the planning and implementation of dozens of fundraising events for Spirit Week, and personally managed a parent night party, silent auction, painting class, midnight jam and bachelor auction. She also set out to raise money on her own by writing letters to solicit donations, selling cookies and candy at school, and hosting a golf tournament. By the end of the big week, Abigail and her fellow council members had raised $221,000 for children with congenital heart defects, and Abigail had broken her school’s individual fundraising record with a total of more than $12,000.

Middle Level State Honoree: Harmonie Frederick
Nominated by Polo Road Elementary School in Columbia

Harmonie, a fifth-grader at Polo Road Elementary School, sold lemonade to raise money and awareness to fight cancer, conducted a coat drive to keep those less fortunate warm in the winter, and volunteers at a local nursing home. After Harmonie’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and her father contracted leukemia, Harmonie sold lemonade at her church to support cancer research. She also recruited friends to help out at a breast cancer fundraising walk and recognize survivors with pink roses.

When she noticed that a friend came to school with no coat to protect him from the cold and rain, Harmonie initiated a coat drive through her church and ended up with more than 800 garments for both children and adults. At a local nursing home, Harmonie plays the piano for the residents, calls out bingo numbers, serves ice cream, and polishes fingernails. “If you see a person in need, anyone can help,” said Harmonie. “You don’t need to give money, but you can help by doing small gestures to show that you care about them. I feel great when I can make someone happy.”

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized four other South Carolina students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are South Carolina’s Distinguished Finalists for 2017:

Thomas McClinton, 19, of Ware Shoals, S.C., a member of Laurens County 4-H and a senior at Ninety Six High School, is an active volunteer who, in addition to serving as president of his 4-H club and FFA chapter, has helped the community by participating in a wide variety of charitable initiatives and organizations. Thomas is currently leading a “mile of quarters” collection to fund the construction of a show barn for his county 4-H, and he visits a primary school every Friday to welcome and read to the kids.

Tanvi Mehta, 18, of Columbia, S.C., a senior at Spring Valley High School, founded and directed her school’s first mini-Dance Marathon fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, an event that raised $7,626 to benefit the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. Tanvi worked with school officials, the University of South Carolina Dance Marathon Executive Board and 30 high school volunteers to organize the event, which drew more than 260 participants and featured guest performers, lip sync battles, Zumba and more.

Isabella Polanco, 17, of Columbia, S.C., a senior at Richland Northeast High School, has volunteered hundreds of hours helping animals at local shelters since December 2014, most recently helping out at the Pawmetto Lifeline three times a week. During a rough patch following her move to a new state, Isabella channeled her energy into caring for animals and maintaining their facilities, and has worked to help abused and neglected animals regain trust in humans through her attentive care.

Amanda Robinovitz, 13, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., an eighth-grader at East Cooper Montessori Charter School, has helped to collect and distribute 50,000 books for local children’s hospital clinics since September 2008 through “RxRead,” the organization she runs with her brother. Amanda, who finds, organizes and delivers books and writes to publishers and authors, took on more responsibility in 2012 after her brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and also started fundraising for a cure.

“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”

“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their work,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students.”

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 HandsOn Network affiliates, 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 8, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2017. 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 115,000 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.

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