Anika Attaluri, 17, of Chandler and Hadley Gray, 11, of Surprise today were named Arizona’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.
As State Honorees, Anika and Hadley will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.
“We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year,” says Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they’re making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.”
These are Arizona’s top youth volunteers of 2021:
High School State Honoree: Anika Attaluri
Nominated by Hamilton High School
Anika, a senior at Hamilton High School, played a leadership role in a national grassroots initiative that registered more than 35,000 young people to vote in the 2020 election. Anika, a first-generation American, is a passionate advocate for civic engagement in young people and people of color. She also knew how intimidating the voting process can be for first-time voters, and that the COVID-19 pandemic was presenting challenges for the registration and voting process. So when she was asked to play a leadership role in a program promoting youth voter registration, she was “ecstatic” to take on a leadership role.
Anika was tasked with building teams across the country to maximize voter participation. She recruited student volunteers through Instagram and phone calls, oversaw national and statewide virtual meetings, and created social media content to spread awareness about election issues and debunk voting myths. Next, she collaborated with fellow volunteers to deliver virtual classroom presentations in high schools and host weekly in-person registration drives, with particular emphasis on areas with traditionally low voter turnout. In addition, Anika and her teams created voting guides, election reminders and safe voting tips, and helped distribute personal protective equipment at polling sites on election day.
Middle Level State Honoree: Hadley Gray
Nominated by Paradise Honors Elementary School
Hadley, a sixth-grader at Paradise Honors Elementary School, asked for donations instead of gifts for her ninth birthday to support local homeless and pet shelters, and two birthdays later, collected more than 100 pieces of luggage for children in foster care. Hadley began volunteering at age 5 by helping her mother organize 5K races for kids with cancer. She said she had so much fun that as she got older, she wanted to start her own service projects.
Last year, Hadley learned that many children in foster care have to use garbage bags to carry their personal belongings when they move between homes. “This really affected me,” she said. “The thought of those poor kids carrying their prized possessions like garbage was heartbreaking.” She recalled how successful her ninth birthday had been, and decided to conduct another donation drive for her 11th birthday. Only this time she would collect luggage for foster kids. To start, she distributed fliers, made a video for social media, posted signs at her school, and persuaded a local coffee shop to promote her effort and serve as a dropoff site. Since some people donated money instead of luggage, Hadley purchased additional duffel bags along with hygiene items, coloring books, crayons and a “ton” of stuffed animals to accompany the 100+ pieces of luggage that she ended up delivering to the Maricopa County Department of Child Safety.
State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President’s Volunteer Service Awards.
“It speaks volumes about the character of today’s secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need,” says Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. “While we’re especially proud to celebrate this year’s 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who’s found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give.”
To read the names and stories of all of this year’s State Honorees, visit http://spirit.