Wasinger is Kansas' 2021 top youth volunteer

Prudential press release

NEWARK, N.J. — Anne Wasinger, 18, of Hays and Jonah Stein, 12, of Leawood have been named Kansas' top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.

As State Honorees, Anne and Jonah will each 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.

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.

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

Wasinger was nominated by Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr/Sr High School.

A senior at Thomas More Prep Marian High School, she founded and directs an annual theatre camp for adults with developmental disabilities, an intensive five-day experience that culminates in a performance for the community.

When Anne has 3 years old, she began performing in her local community theatre along with family members. But one member of her family wasn’t able to participate.

“My big brother, Joel, has cerebral palsy and due to inaccessibility, he could never perform with me,” Anne said. However, the theatre moved to a new facility in the summer of 2018 and built wheelchair-accessible ramps and bathrooms. That spurred Anne, who believes that the “limitless” benefits of theatre should be available to all, to start “Center Stage Theatre Camp” to give people with disabilities a chance to learn theatre techniques, gain confidence, express themselves and showcase their talents.

After several proposals and meetings, Anne partnered with the local theatre to cover costs and provide rehearsal space. She then persuaded a large local church to host the group’s post-camp performance; selected skits, songs, and dances to teach the performers; purchased scripts; spread the word among agencies that work with people with disabilities; and recruited volunteers to help. Despite some funding setbacks early on and now the challenges presented by COVID-19, Anne has persevered and thus far has conducted two camps involving a total of 50 “campers” and 40 volunteers. She estimates that over 200 members of her community have turned out to watch their shows.

“It speaks volumes about the character of today’s secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need,” said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. “While we’re especially proud to celebrate this year’s 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who’s found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give.”

To read the names and stories of all of this year’s State Honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com.