Two girls ware being awarded as Nevada's top state honorees of 2018 in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the nation’s largest youth volunteer awards program honoring students in grades 5-12 for outstanding volunteer service.
Samantha Schuetze, 16, a member of Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada and a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, formed a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 600 “hand off kits” containing food and personal hygiene items for homeless youth and women in southern Nevada.
She enlisted the help of her church youth group, a local foundation and her neighbors to assemble 300 “kits” containing things like water, protein bars, cookies, candy, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hats, socks, lip balm and hand sanitizer, and delivered them to a local shelter for women and children. After discovering that “seeing people smile because of your actions is one of the best feelings in the world,” Samantha was eager to do more. So she established a nonprofit organization called “Helpful Hand Off Kits” and began reaching out to business, church and school leaders for help in collecting donations for the homeless. Those efforts, plus a GoFundMe account, have enabled Samantha to raise $3,000 and provide hundreds of additional kits to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
Samantha Hook, 12, a member of Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada and a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy, collected small toys and other fun items to fill 200 zip-lock bags and delivered them to a residential facility where families stay while their loved ones are being treated at the local VA hospital. “Before, Fisher House did not have anything for children to play with, so the kids were often bored or sad about their hospitalized family member,” said Samantha, whose father is a disabled veteran.
Accompanied by her best friend, Samantha visited Fisher House to determine exactly what kind of gifts would be best for the young people who stay there. Then they began soliciting donations from Girl Scout troops, the American Legion Auxiliary and the military community at Nellis Air Force Base. Once they had enough items, they packaged them all in zip-lock bags and delivered them to the manager of Fisher House.
Each of the 102 State Honorees named will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C. for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 of these students will be named among “America’s Top Youth Volunteer of 2018,” and will receive an additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice. In addition to the State Honorees, the program’s judges recognized 234 students nationwide as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.