A Rock Hill teenager’s volunteer service landed her a trip to Washington, D.C. and a chance to meet award-winning actress Viola Davis.
Jazmine Sepulveda, 13, is one of 100 top youth volunteers in the country to be honored at the 24th annual The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in D.C., according to a release from Prudential Financial. The national program honors people for volunteering in their communities.
Sepulveda is a seventh-grade student at Riverwalk Academy, a public charter school in Rock Hill.
Adom Appiah, 15, of Spartanburg is the other South Carolina recipient. Appiah is a freshman at Spartanburg Day School.
The two North Carolina recipients are Simona Adhikari, 17, of Charlotte and Alexander Fultz, 13, of Pineville.
A middle level and a high school top volunteer are chosen for each state. State recipients get $1,000, an engraved silver medal and an all-expense-paid trip to D.C. for the four-day awards event, according to Prudential.
Fultz also was chosen as one of 10 national winners. National honorees receive an additional $5,000, a gold medal, a trophy for their school or nominating organization and a $5,000 Prudential Foundation grant for a charitable organization of their choice, according to the program.
Davis personally congratulated the recipients during an award ceremony and reception Sunday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the release states.
Davis stars in the show “How to Get Away with Murder” and has had roles in movies such as “The Help,” Fences” and “Widows.”
Volunteers in grades 5-12 applied for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in fall 2018 through their schools and community organizations.
The awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in February named top youth volunteers for each state, according to the release.
Sepulveda raises money to provide clothing and school supplies for Dominican Republic children living in poverty, the release states. Sepulveda sells bracelets she makes along with traditional Dominican rings made by artisans.
The Rock Hill resident is a native of the Dominican Republic. Sepulveda saw the children in need on a visit to her birth country with her mother, the release states.
“I’ve always had a heart for others,” Sepulveda said in the release. “My mother tells me that when I was only two years old, on Christmas day I saw all of the gifts under the tree and grabbed the smallest gift for me and left the others for my cousins.”
Sepulveda started making and selling bracelets two years ago to support a charity in Santo Domingo, which helps more than 600 children each year, according to the release. Sepulveda’s effort has provided more than 200 children with items such as school supplies, clothing and school uniforms.
“I hope my initiative brings them joy,” she said in the release. “My hope is to continue and expand the collection of basic items and keep sending them for many more years.”
Sepulveda also spreads awareness on underage drinking at community health fairs and volunteers at an organization promoting cultural identity and bilingual education, according to Prudential. The teenager also performs as a folkloric dancer.
Appiah has raised more than $50,000 for 16 nonprofit organizations in his community through his charity “Ball4Good,” the release states. Appiah started his charity in 2016, which hosts celebrity basketball games and donation drives.
Appiah is a varsity soccer player and junior varsity basketball player, according to Prudential. Appiah’s first celebrity basketball game in 2017 drew more than 80 spectators and benefited the Boys and Girls Club.
“I felt helping my community through sports was important because sports is a unifier,” he said in the release.
Appiah’s events have also supported children with autism and helped provide clothing and needed items for the homeless, the release states. Appiah authored two books aimed at helping children overcome failures.
Adhikari, a junior at Ardrey Kell High School, was chosen after she taught 24 girls in rural Nepal how to make bracelets, according to Prudential. Adhikari sold those bracelets in the United States and United Kingdom to raise more than $6,000 for the girls.
“In rural Nepal, more time, more money and more energy is placed on boys,” she said in the release. “Many girls drop out of school by the 10th grade, marry young and start families, and end up having limited educational opportunities.”
Adhikari arranged to have more bracelets delivered to her from Nepal. Funds from the sale of more than 400 bracelets has helped girls in Nepal get tutoring, invest in small businesses and save for the future, the release states.
”I felt that with just a little encouragement and instruction, that maybe I could somehow change the course of their lives, even if it was just by a little bit,” Adhikari said in the release. “Not only was this project able to help the 24 young girls that I met initially, but it actually went on to help hundreds of others in the community.”
Fultz is in eighth grade at Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy in Charlotte. He created the nonprofit Alexander’s Toy Trunk, Inc., to donate toys and clothing to hospitals in several states, according to Prudential.
Fultz was inspired after visiting his one-year-old brother in the hospital eight years ago, where he saw children having to stay through the holidays, the release states. Fultz also provides an outfit, books, a toy, a blanket and a handmade cap to every infant in several NICUs.
“My favorite holiday was Christmas, so I thought of providing things to children in the hospital so they could have a happy Christmas,” Fultz said in the release.
More than 125,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level since the award program began in 1995, according to Prudential.
“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc., said in the release. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”