Special to The Sun
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Oklahoma’s top two youth volunteers of 2013, Perrin Duncan, 18, of Edmond and Mason Harvey, 13, of Guthrie, were honored in the nation’s capital recently for their outstanding volunteer service during the 18th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Perrin and Mason — along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country — each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception 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 Perrin and Mason Oklahoma’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.
Perrin, a senior at North High School, was a dedicated fundraiser for an annual charity drive at her school before becoming co-chair of its 2012 campaign, which yielded more than $280,000 for the Sooner Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “It was one of the most rewarding and stressful years of my life,” Perrin said, “but I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.”
Mason, an eighth-grader at Guthrie Junior High School, has become a crusader against childhood obesity after shedding 85 pounds in the seventh grade. “Once upon a time, I was very unhealthy, overweight and picked on by bullies,” Mason said. “In the sixth grade, at my heaviest, 206 pounds, I told my parents I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He started exercising and making smarter food choices and by the beginning of the next school year, he had dropped an astonishing 85 pounds “and felt awesome!” he said.
Recognizing that childhood obesity is a big problem nationally, Mason figured he could use his example to persuade other overweight children that they, too, can slim down. Since he regarded 85 as his “magic number,” he resolved to meet 85 important or famous people who could help him tell his story and host or attend 85 events to raise awareness of childhood obesity. “Don’t let people tell you it can’t be done. Believe with all of your heart and do it.”
John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc., said, “We commend these honorees not only for the impact of their service and their spirit of giving, but also for inspiring others to consider that they can make a difference, too. We congratulate this extraordinary group of youth volunteers.”
Saying these students are fine examples of what is possible when young people roll up their sleeves and commit themselves to helping others, Denise Greene-Wilkinson, president of NASSP, said, “They have learned early that their contributions can make a real difference, and there is no limit to the great things they can achieve.”
Youth volunteers were invited to apply for 2013 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 28,000 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 as well. In the past 18 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level. More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.