HONOLULU, Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Mahealani Sims-Tulba, 17, of Ewa Beach and Grace Kennedy, 13, of Kailua today were named Hawaii’s top two youth volunteers of 2018 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As State Honorees, Mahealani and Grace each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in late April to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards logo

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

These are Hawaii’s top youth volunteers of 2018:

High School State Honoree: Mahealani Sims-Tulba 
Nominated by Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu

Mahealani, a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy, created a nonprofit foundation to communicate about the problem of bullying to students throughout Hawaii. After Mahealani experienced firsthand the destructive power of bullying in the fifth grade, she wrote a book about it and began using the book as a tool to reach out to other young people. “I realized that there are many others in the same situation as me,” she said. “I wanted to spread my message of positivity, encouragement, kindness and respect for others.”

Mahealani formed her foundation, and then started asking schools and libraries if she could come and read to their kids and talk about bullying. On these visits, she distributes copies of her book, “It’s Okay to Be Different,” along with silicon bracelets, and sometimes brings along her mascot Buddy the Bulldog. Mahealani has spoken in front of thousands of elementary, middle level and high school students statewide, and participated in numerous community events to make both youngsters and parents aware of bullying issues. She also created a music video on the subject, appeared on a weekly television program, and conducted an annual toy drive for children in need. By her count, Mahealani’s “B.R.A.V.E.” campaign (which stands for “Be Respectful and Value Everyone”) has so far reached more than 40,000 students across Hawaii.        

Middle Level State Honoree: Grace Kennedy 
Nominated by St. Anthony School Kailua in Kailua

Grace, an eighth-grader at St. Anthony School Kailua, has raised thousands of dollars to benefit sick and abused children as a board member of a Hawaii-based student philanthropic organization. Grace was invited to a meeting of the organization “Kidz For A Cause” in 2014, and was quickly inspired to help with the group’s fundraising. “I learned that there are many kids having a really hard time growing up,” she explained. “I felt bad for the kids who are sick and abused.”

Grace began by selling tickets to a benefit theater show, raising $1,000 to help buy clothes, toys and school books for abused or neglected kids at the Children’s Justice Center on Oahu. The next year, she recruited a group of friends to help her organize a celebrity chef dinner, where several of Hawaii’s most famous chefs provided a gourmet meal for 100 people. That event generated more than $6,000 to help expand a local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Last year, Grace led fellow volunteers in staging a variety concert featuring local singers, dancers and comedians, along with a silent auction, to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House charity. “It feels great to know I helped the kids in my community!” said Grace.           

Distinguished Finalists

The program judges also recognized two other Hawaii students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

These are Hawaii’s Distinguished Finalists for 2018:

Emily Smith, 15, of Mililani, Hawaii, a sophomore at Ho’ala School, started “Lend-A-Paw,” a volunteer organization that has supported shelter animals in the U.S. and Japan by making dog treats, pet toys and supporting charity fundraising efforts. Determined to help shelter animals be safe and well-fed, Emily has spread awareness of her cause through a website, a YouTube channel and presentations in school and the community.

Justin Wong, 18, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a senior at President Theodore Roosevelt High School, has worked with other young members of the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders to reduce political polarization amongst their fellow Hawaiians by creating public dinner discussions and starting discussions online. An avid volunteer with 400 service hours to his credit, Justin has served two terms as president of his school’s Leo Club and has participated in beach clean-ups, pet walks and other volunteer activities.

“Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same.”

“These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they’ve served – they also set an important example for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “These honorees prove that you’re never too young to make a difference.”

About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth. 

While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On April 30, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2018. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.  

Since the program began in 1995, more than 120,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China, Brazil and Poland. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees.

For information on all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.

For Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallion graphics, please visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media


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