WASHINGTON -- The nation's top youth volunteers were honored this week as part of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Eli Manning, the 2012 Super Bowl MVP, was on hand at a Sunday evening dinner gala at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, to honor the 102 youth volunteers selected from middle and high schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the 10 national honorees during a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters. Those 10 national honorees received $5,000 personal awards, engraved gold medallions, trophies for their schools and $5,000 Prudential Foundation grants for charities of their choice.
Candonino Agusen, 17, of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, a junior at Kealakehe High School, who has helped raise more than $64,000 to buy temporary housing kits for people displaced by the earthquake in Japan last year.
Matthew Benjamin, 14, of Tulsa, Okla., an eighth-grader at Regent Preparatory School, who has raised more than $30,000 to build a home for 33 orphans in Uganda by attracting sponsorships as he trained and ran in a half-marathon last year.
Neha Gupta, 15, of Yardley, Pa., a sophomore at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, who has founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $375,000 to provide educational and other resources to disadvantaged children in India and the United States.
Samantha Kerker, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla., a junior at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, who has founded a student club with chapters in all 28 high schools in Palm Beach County to promote monthly service projects benefiting poor people, and is now working to send 60 students on a poverty-focused mission to a third-world country.
Emily Kladar, 12, of Hayden Lake, Idaho, a sixth-grader at Canfield Middle School in Coeur d'Alene, who has created a nonprofit charity with her sister that has raised more than $60,000 to benefit the families of children needing heart surgery.
Catherine Mitchell, 16, of Oceanside, Calif., a senior at Guajome Park Academy in Vista, who has created a business called "Beauty 4 Life" that enables women in Uganda to earn a living and educate their children by selling their handmade paper-bead jewelry in the U.S.
Raymond Mohler, 14, of Lynbrook, N.Y., an eighth-grader at Lynbrook South Middle School, who has created a foundation to help alleviate the pain, fear and anxiety felt by young hospital patients by providing toys and other gifts, arranging celebrity visits and assembling mobile entertainment centers.
Jordyn Schara, 17, of North Freedom, Wis., a junior at Reedsburg Area High School, who has created a nonprofit organization that collects and disposes of unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals so that they do not end up in the water supply, while raising awareness of prescription drug abuse.
Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood, Kan., an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, who has recorded and sold copies of a CD that raised more than $20,000 to build two fish ponds in Africa and a home for 12 orphaned boys in Haiti.
Ashlee Smith, 13, of Sparks, Nev., a member of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross in Reno and a seventh-grader at Lou Mendive Middle School, who has founded a nonprofit organization that has collected and distributed more than 175,000 toys over the past five years for child victims of house fires and natural disasters.
The awards program is a partnership between the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Prudential Financial.