The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism, recently announced its Texas honorees. Included were two Austin youths named as finalists.

Carissa Mallory, 17, and Eesha Nayak, 15, both of Austin, were among 10 youths named Distinguished Finalists.

Carissa is a senior at Vandegrift High School and the founder of the “Reading Around the World Literacy Initiative (RAWLI),” a charity that in the past three years has provided schools in Tanzania with resources including more than 12,000 books, 350 desks and chairs and an educational game to help Swahili-speaking students learn English. Carissa began her initiative after learning that English language skills often proved to be a barrier to pursuing a high school education in Tanzania.

Eesha Nayak is a member of Girl Scouts of Central Texas and a sophomore at Westwood High School. Eesha used her video production skills to help train volunteers and raise more than $10,000 for the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, an organization that provides free healthcare services to the uninsured working poor. Eesha, who has volunteered with the clinic for two years, created a series of volunteer orientation videos for the clinic, in addition to promotional videos that have helped the clinic raise money.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 22nd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Texas’ top youth volunteers of 2017 are Ryan Almusawi of Saginaw and Micah Pinson of Corinth. These two will each receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May 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 2017.

The other Texas youths named distinguished finalists included Chowdhury Bari of Grand Prairie, Anna Connolly of Dallas, Kaitlyn Ecoff of Bulverde, Sabrina Epstein of San Antonio, Henry Hernandez of Irving, Lauren Holtkamp of Conroe, Elijah Johns of San Antonio and Daniel Kurtenbach of Duncanville.

“Prudential is honored to recognize these young volunteers for their exemplary service,” says Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities.”

“These service-minded young people have brought meaningful change to communities at home and abroad, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their work,” says JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to an exceptional group of middle level and high school students.”

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