Selected from a field of more than 33,000 youth volunteers from across the country
“Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts congratulates Morlan Osgood, 16, of Loveland (center) and Rachel Prior, 12, of Tallmadge (right) on being named Ohio’s top two youth volunteers for 2015 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Morlan and Rachel were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, May 3 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where they each received a $1,000 award. (Photo: Zach Harrison Photography)
Washington – Morlan Osgood, 16, from Loveland was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2015 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 20th annual national award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Selected from a field of more than 33,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Morlan has earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
“The light bulb went off and she is now taking honors math courses!”
Also honored this week in Washington, D.C., was Rachel Prior, 12, of Tallmadge. Rachel and Morlan were named Ohio’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized last night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2015 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Morlan, a junior at Loveland High School, co-founded an educational program that has helped more than 14,000 students in grades 2-12 develop their interest and skills in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) through summer camps, after-school classes, conference workshops and other activities. Years ago, Morlan tutored a girl who hated math. Instead of using traditional tools such as flashcards, Morlan taught the girl how to use math concepts to program a LEGO robot. “The light bulb went off and she is now taking honors math courses!” said Morlan. “I realized if I could inspire one child, I could create a team to inspire hundreds.”
Morlan and her two brothers began recruiting other teens with strong STEM and interpersonal skills to teach and mentor kids, especially students who lack educational resources. Using LEGO robotic applications, the Osgoods and their “STEMs for Youth” organization now host seven summer camps and six after-school classes in Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and the District of Columbia. They also make presentations at national and international conferences, and teach technology classes for senior citizens. Morlan has spent more than 2,000 hours over the past five years on all aspects of STEMs for Youth, including curriculum development, fundraising, event planning, promotion and collaboration with business people and school administrators. “We are making a difference!” said Morlan. “Over 80 percent of our participants want to pursue STEM subjects and careers!”
Rachel, a sixth-grader at Tallmadge Middle School (a suburb of Akron), organized a foot race to raise money and awareness for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), in honor of a close friend who has the neurological disorder, and then competed in the Cleveland Triathlon with that friend and 24 other kids that she recruited for the competition. Her friend, Ethan, “cannot talk or walk on his own, but he is one of my best friends,” said Rachel. “He is always happy even though he has to work very hard to do things that are simple for most people.” [quote_box_right]“We are making a difference!” said Morlan. “Over 80 percent of our participants want to pursue STEM subjects and careers!”[/quote_box_right]
In 2010, Rachel joined Team Ethan, a running group formed by Ethan’s parents to participate in fundraising events of UCP of Greater Cleveland. A few years later, she decided to create her own race so that she could help Team Ethan raise even more money to combat cerebral palsy. She and a few friends mapped out a race course, promoted the event with brochures and social media postings, persuaded local businesses to donate supplies and prizes, and supervised everything on race day. Over the past three years, Rachel’s “Elm Trail Race” has had more than 700 participants and raised over $7,500. Last year, Rachel competed with Ethan as a “youth push team” in the Cleveland Triathlon along with 24 friends, raising $5,000 for UCP.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, we are delighted to recognize the 2015 honorees for their exemplary volunteer service,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These young people have demonstrated leadership, compassion and perseverance, and we look forward to seeing all they accomplish in the future.”
“These honorees represent the best of what America’s youth have to offer,” said G.A. Buie, president of NASSP. “They have set a powerful example for their peers by proving that one young person really can make a difference, and it is a privilege to shine a spotlight on their good works.”