WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alaska’s top two youth volunteers of 2015, Cassandra Adams, 17, of Ketchikan and Amara Sanguni, 13, of Juneau, were honored in the nation’s capital earlier this month for their outstanding volunteer service during the 20th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Adams and Sanguni – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named Adams and Sanguni Alaska’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Adams, a senior at Ketchikan High School, began volunteering with her local fire department five years ago, and has since helped care for numerous victims of fires, accidents and other life-threatening crises as an emergency trauma technician. When her father joined the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department in 2010, Adams learned that the organization did not have enough members to meet all the needs in its 24-mile service area, so she began volunteering there, too.
At first, she helped vacuum, sweep and scrub the firehouse once a month. After she turned 14, Adams signed up for a 40-hour course leading to certification as an emergency trauma technician, and became a fire department cadet. She now responds to medical emergencies as part of an ambulance crew, monitoring the condition of patients while they are being transported to the hospital. She also provides medical support to her department’s firefighters during fires, and has used her training to teach others.
Sanguni, a member of the Girl Scouts of Alaska in Anchorage and a seventh-grader at Floyd Dryden Middle School, works on a variety of events each year to raise money so that families in need, people with disabilities, veterans and senior citizens can get free food through a food pantry in Juneau. Sanguni became aware of the pantry, Helping Hands, when her family benefited from its services after moving to Juneau 10 years ago.
Her first volunteer activity was working at a Halloween carnival. Since then, Sanguni has helped raise funds each year not only at the Halloween event, but by assisting with food sales at Juneau’s Gold Rush Days and Fourth of July celebration, by wrapping Christmas gifts, and by selling tickets for an annual dinner and auction. These activities take up a lot of her spare time, she said, and require flexibility, effective people skills, and the willingness to do whatever’s asked of her. Over the past year alone, Sanguni has helped generate nearly $24,000, which has enabled Helping Hands to distribute almost 100,000 pounds of food to people in need.
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 33,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 20 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.