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Mississippi’s Top Youth Volunteers of 2021 Selected by National Program

JACKSON, Miss. – Fletcher Horne, 15, of Laurel and Abygail Buchanan, 13, of Florence were named Mississippi’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, Fletcher and Abygail 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,” said 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.”

Fletcher, a sophomore at Laurel Christian School, arranged to provide more than 1,300 hot meals for hospital and nursing home workers to thank them for their dedication and sacrifice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because his father is a doctor and chief medical officer at a local hospital, “our family has had a front-row seat to the toll COVID-19 can have on healthcare workers,” said Fletcher.

One morning, his dad bought donuts for his ICU nursing staff and told Fletcher how appreciative they were. “I started thinking about what I could do to help in a similar way,” he said. Before long, he had developed a plan to purchase hot meals from restaurants that were struggling and deliver them to South Central Regional Medical Center and two nursing homes. Fletcher set up a GoFundMe to solicit donations and received $5,000 in just 24 hours. He opened a checking account to manage the funds, and approached local restaurants, which eagerly agreed to provide meals at a reduced price. He then recruited fellow students and 10 adult volunteers to make contactless deliveries to on-duty hospital and nursing home staff.

In the end, Fletcher raised more than $12,000 from 177 donors, which enabled him to not only make 24 meal deliveries, but also donate $5,000 to the hospital’s healthcare foundation.

Abygail, an eighth-grader at Florence Middle School, helped lead a local drive that collected more than 1,800 toiletries and other personal care items to fill tote bags for veterans experiencing homelessness. She served as a lead ambassador for the county 4-H participation in the Red Cross’s Totes of Hope campaign.

“I have family members that are veterans and their service means the world to me,” she said. “I felt this was a great way to show my support and gratitude to the veterans that have served our country.”

As an ambassador, Abygail joined a team that set up two drive-through sites for community members to drop off donated items, and promoted the collection effort on social media. They then gathered up and sorted the donations – including soap, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, puzzle books and socks – and packaged them in zippered tote bags. In the end, 47 “totes of hope” were made available to veterans through VA hospitals or veterans outreach programs.

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.

“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,” said 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.prudential.com

MageeNews.com is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

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