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Edison native named top youth volunteer

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honored a local student with a $2,500 scholarship, silver medallion and an invitation to a virtual celebration for his work addressing the challenges of a changing world.

Manan Shah, 17, of Edison, was named one of New Jersey’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service, according to information provided by Prudential.

As a state honoree, Manan will 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, according to the statement.

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.

Manan, a senior at John P. Stevens High School, started a nonprofit virtual tutoring service with a friend last April that has recruited more than 350 high school students in 15 chapters to help children in grades K-8 adapt to online classrooms once their school buildings closed due to COVID-19.

When the virus forced his school district to shift to online instruction, “I realized that many students were likely struggling with the sudden change,” he said in the statement. “For younger students who rely more on interacting with their teachers, this transition must have been especially difficult.”

Manan knew he could help, so he asked a classmate to join him in launching a nonprofit called LimitlessMinds. The two began promoting their tutoring service on a website and social media, and reached out to school principals in their town to help both recruit students willing to become tutors and identify younger kids who needed their assistance. Manan also asked acquaintances he had met through summer programs and other activities to consider starting LimitlessMinds chapters in their hometowns, and provided them with guidance and a blueprint for implementation.

Since he began, Manan’s program has conducted more than 4,000 hours of virtual tutoring for 550 kids in locations as far away as El Salvador and Pakistan, according to the statement. Initially, Manan said he envisioned his project as “a solution to the struggles of virtual school.” But now, “I hope that it will remain a valuable resource to students around the world long after the pandemic subsides,” he said in the statement.

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,” Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO, said in the statement. “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.”

For more information, visit http://spirit.pr

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