Florida’s top youth volunteer was among those honored in Washington, D.C., by Prudential and Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Vonn.
Paloma Rambana has fuzzy vision caused by a congenital eye condition and uses a video magnifier to read and see around her classroom at school. When the magnifier broke—and she couldn’t get state funding for new one—she gained a new personal vision that helped secure $1.25 million in Florida state funding for children with visual impairments.
Paloma, a 12-year-old from Tallahassee, was one of 10 middle and high school students honored Monday as a top youth volunteer of 2018 at the 23rd Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Washington, D.C. The ceremony was part of a four-day event, where the top two youth volunteers from each state and the District of Columbia visited the nation’s capital to be recognized for community service. Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn congratulated the honorees at a dinner reception and ceremony Sunday night.
“It’s important for kids like me to have the tools they need to be successful in school. Getting them as a teenager is too late.”
|Click here to learn about the 2018 honorees|
“The honorees exemplify something we’ve known for a long time—that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years and it’s a privilege to celebrate their service.”
In Florida, the government helps to buy vision equipment for children under the age of 6, and then from ages 14 to 18. When Paloma broke her magnifier, she fell squarely into the unfunded gap at just 7 years old. Her parents could afford her equipment out-of-pocket, but she saw that other children with eye conditions weren’t so lucky. So she decided to work for change.
“It’s important for kids like me to have the tools they need to be successful in school,” Paloma said. “Getting them as a teenager is too late.”
Paloma launched her “Fund the Gap” campaign to help kids like her. She met dozens of legislators, her governor and congressional representatives. She led rallies, made T-shirts, wrote an op-ed for the local paper, created a website and recorded a public service announcement. Her lobbying efforts began to pay off when Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed off on $1.25 million in initial funding to pay for vision equipment for children who fell in the funding gap, with almost half recurring every year.
“I tell everyone that it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, you can make a difference,” she said.
The 102 state honorees each received $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The 10 top honorees each received an additional $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools or nominating organizations and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for the charities of their choice.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, is the largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service in the U.S. Because of its success in the U.S., the program has since been introduced in other countries where Prudential has a significant presence: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China, Brazil and Poland. Each country sends top youth volunteers to the Washington, D.C., event. In the U.S. alone, the program has recognized more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
For pictures of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For media inquiries, digital photos or B-roll of the National Honorees at the 2018 national recognition events, contact Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.