LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Emmaline Landes, 17, of El Dorado and Braden Lisowe, 11, of Benton today were named Arkansas' top two youth volunteers of 2020 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Emmaline and Braden 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 2020. 

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Arkansas' top youth volunteers of 2020:

High School State Honoree: Emmaline Landes
Nominated by El Dorado High School

Emmaline, a senior at El Dorado High School, has raised more than $16,000 since 2013 for nonprofit agencies and various causes by selling or donating more than 300 pieces of her original artwork. At age 11, Emmaline began painting portraits of animals at a local shelter, which were then auctioned at the shelter's annual ball. When the first one sold for $500, "I realized I could make a difference through my artwork," she said. Working mainly with acrylics on canvas, she started making paintings for other nonprofits in her community, and later formed a nonprofit called "Heartworks" in memory of her grandmother, who died of ALS in 2016.

Proceeds from the sale of Emmaline's paintings have gone to address a wide range of causes she cares about, including child abuse, homelessness, animal adoption, hunger, affordable healthcare and art education. She also has used her art to help peers in need. Emmaline's first art show raised funds to cover travel costs for a friend receiving medical care, to buy personal care items for a peer whose family is affected by AIDS and to supply weekend meals for kids who don't have enough to eat at home. A second art show generated funds to purchase medical supplies and equipment for people with ALS and other debilitating diseases. In addition, Emmaline has created a series of paintings of fetal ultrasound images, which are being donated to purchase baby supplies and clothing for peers who become pregnant in high school. "It is my hope that my work reflects the joy I feel from helping others," she said.

Middle Level State Honoree: Braden Lisowe
Nominated by Bryant Middle School

Braden, a sixth grader at Bryant Middle School, has provided more than 2,000 meals for clients of the Arkansas Food Bank by cooking and selling ready-to-eat meals out of his kitchen and donating the proceeds. "I've always been interested in cooking," explained Braden. "I began cooking ready-to-eat meals for friends and family to raise money to go to camp, and quickly realized that I could use my new skills to help others." He knew about the food bank from volunteering there with his mother and decided that feeding the hungry was something he could do.

Each week, Braden plans a meal with a main dish and two sides and solicits orders on a "Braden's Bites" Facebook page managed by his mother. With as many as 10-12 orders a week, he shops for ingredients, prepares the meals in his home kitchen with help from his sister, and arranges delivery. In addition to the proceeds that he donates to the food bank, Braden donates a meal to someone in need for every five meals he sells. His meal sales have also enabled him to purchase 50 sleeping bags for people experiencing homelessness after severe flooding destroyed their encampment. He also has donated meals on Mother's Day to mothers who have lost children, to veterans on Veterans Day, to people who are ill or recovering from surgery, to foster parents and first responders, and to others. "I'm really lucky that my family has never had to worry about where our next meal came from," said Braden, "but being able to raise funds so that others don't have to feels really good."  

Distinguished Finalists

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

These are Arkansas' Distinguished Finalists for 2020:

Haley Draeger, 16, of Sherwood, Arkansas, a member of the Girl Scouts - Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas and a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy, organized and runs "Kid's Korner," a twice-monthly event that has given more than 1,300 outfits to 240 families who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock. Haley solicits, washes and organizes donated clothing, has helped recruit additional volunteers, and works directly with families who benefit from her initiative.

Raichel Frye, 17, of Foreman, Arkansas, a senior at Foreman High School, organized a donation drive in her community to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey; she printed and distributed informational fliers, connected with local churches to spread the word and helped prepare more than 500 donations for delivery. Raichel was inspired to organize this event after hearing about the devastation caused by the hurricane to communities in Houston, and plans to host similar donation drives in the future.

Natalie Hernandez, 18, of Rogers, Arkansas, a senior at Don Tyson School of Innovation, is the creator and leader of "Coding Takes Flight," an educational program that has offered hourlong block coding sessions to more than 1,000 girls from local elementary schools. Natalie was inspired to start this project after being one of only two female students in her high school programming class; she hopes to help participants expand their interest in STEM-related fields and gain confidence in their new skillset.

Hayden Wood, 17, of Floral, Arkansas, a senior at Midland High School, is the co-founder of the "Wireless Education" project, working with state legislators and businesses to provide students in his community with mobile hot spot flash drives so they can complete online homework assignments at home. Hayden used a software program to determine which service provider would be the best partner for his project, based on service strength in rural areas where his classmates live.

"In our 25th year of honoring young volunteers, we are as inspired as ever by the work students are doing to address the needs of a changing world," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "We hope that their resolve, their initiative and their perspectives on society's challenges move others to consider how they can make a difference, too."

"Middle level and high school students are doing remarkable things to shape the future of their communities through volunteer service. They inspire all students and schools to drive learning with real-world challenges," said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. "Congratulations to each of the 2020 honorees – it's an honor to celebrate your commitment to creating positive change."

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 Points of Light Global Network members, 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 4, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2020. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.  

Since the program began in 1995, more than 130,000 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.

For information on all of this year's Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

About NASSP

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at www.nassp.org

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media

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