Alaska's Top Youth Volunteers Of 2017 Selected By National Program


February 13, 2017


This news release is shared on behalf of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.


JUNEAU, Alaska, Feb. 7, 2017



Adam Skelton, 17, of Anchorage and Leena Robinson, 13, of Nenana today were named Alaska'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, Adam and Leena 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 (NASSP).


These are Alaska's top youth volunteers of 2017:


High School State Honoree: Adam Skelton
Nominated by South Anchorage High School in Anchorage


Adam, a senior at South Anchorage High School, has collected more than a ton of books over the past two years and shipped them to rural Alaskan communities that lack ready access to reading materials. Adam, an avid reader since early childhood, was appalled when he learned that Alaskans living in villages beyond the state's road network struggled to acquire basic essentials such as books. "This seemed extraordinarily unjust to me," he said, "given my easy access to reading materials."


Adam's response was to create a foundation devoted to promoting literacy in rural Alaska. He began collecting thousands of unwanted books from garage sales, school libraries, individual donors, and even his own collection. A book drive he conducted in partnership with Special Olympics Alaska brought in more than 500 pounds of books. Most of the books he sought were children's picture books and novels for young readers, but he welcomed contributions for all ages. Adam persuaded five local airlines and two bush pilots to fly boxes of his books to some of the most remote communities in southwestern Alaska, where they were then delivered to health clinics, schools and private homes. "I'm thrilled that I have given rural residents of the state I call home the opportunity to enjoy reading as much as I do," said Adam.


Middle Level State Honoree: Leena Robinson
Nominated by Nenana City Public School in Nenana

Leena, an eighth-grader at Nenana City Public Schools, plays a key role in a small group that works to educate local residents about the dangers of tobacco. After Leena's mother and older sister founded the group, called "PINK" (for "People in Need of Knowledge"), Leena wanted to join because her father was a smoker. "I felt it was important because I learned how harmful smoking was and didn't want to see my dad suffer from things he could prevent," she said.


As one of only eight members of PINK, Leena has spent hundreds of volunteer hours helping to plan and coordinate a variety of annual events that highlight the benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle. These include a summer "prevention" carnival with attractions for kids and teens, a community picnic, and an autumn street dance featuring dinner, a live band and a guest speaker. Leena often speaks in front of hundreds of people at these events. She also helps recruit speakers to address students at school about tobacco and other harmful substances.


Distinguished Finalists

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


These are Alaska's Distinguished Finalists for 2017:


Amy Cordell, 18, of Anchorage, Alaska, a senior at A.J. Dimond High School, is a lifelong volunteer who, as president of her school's Z-Club community service group, seeks out volunteer opportunities and makes connections between her fellow students and the community. She also helped lead the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program in her state and volunteers with Junior Achievement to teach kids about financial literacy.


Tasha Elizarde, 17, of Juneau, Alaska, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, organized and led her school's annual Homeless Awareness Sleep Out as president of her Interact Club, collaborating with other school clubs for the first time and raising nearly $3,000 for the Juneau School District Homeless Fund and the Zach Gordon Youth Center food budget. She also facilitated a discussion on the stigma around homelessness and raised greater awareness through a video and newspaper coverage about the event.


"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 JapanSouth KoreaTaiwanIrelandIndiaChina 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.


For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit or



The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit  


About Prudential Financial

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