The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honored an area student with a $2,500 scholarship, silver medallion and invitation to a virtual celebration for her work addressing the challenges of a changing world.
Heather Paglia, 14, of the Perrineville section of Millstone, 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.
She is a student at The Hun School in Princeton.
As a state honoree, Heather 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.
Heather, an eighth grader at The Hun School, has helped raise more than $100,000 to support small businesses, frontline workers, senior citizens and others impacted by COVID-19, and has worked to collect nearly 6,000 pounds of food and personal care items for people in need since March 2020, according to the statement.
When many local restaurants and other businesses were forced to shut down last spring because of the pandemic, Heather was “shocked at what we were hearing on the news,” she said in the statement. “We knew that our local businesses were hurting.”
She also worried about older people isolated from their loved ones, and about the risks to frontline workers.
Heather and her brother decided to solicit donations on behalf of these and other groups struggling with the pandemic, first through GoFundMe and then their own website, where they requested contributions of just $5.
After promoting their initiative through social media and local news outlets, the Paglia siblings got a huge boost with an interview on a national network. Donations began pouring in from all across the country, according to the statement.
In addition to directing these contributions to frontline healthcare workers, small businesses and senior citizens, Heather and her brother have supported efforts to feed the hungry and rescue animals, and to assist young people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, and families dealing with cancer. The pair also organized a holiday gift drive, and is collecting shoes for people in need overseas, according to 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