(BPT) - It's easy to assume that young people are too busy looking at their phones or keeping up with the latest trends to care about the state of their communities. But statistics show that many young Americans are observing the needs around them — and taking the initiative to make a difference.

Take Grace Beal, a high school junior, for example. She organized an annual fundraising event that has raised over $100,000 for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where her sister was treated before she died of congenital heart failure. Or Caleb Oh, an eighth grader who has spent over 1,000 hours volunteering to aid people who are homeless, hungry or have other needs.

In a study of 1,200 U.S. teenagers conducted by Prudential Financial’s Spirit of Community Initiative, 67 percent reported that they’d volunteered in the past; just over a quarter said they volunteered on a regular basis.

That’s great news for the youth and their communities, since volunteering can benefit the givers as much as the receivers. The teen volunteers surveyed by Prudential rated themselves an average of 15 points higher than non-volunteers across a variety of traits including independence, confidence and optimism. They also reported that their service projects helped them actively develop leadership and social skills.

To encourage and honor young volunteers in grades 5 through 12, Prudential is sponsoring its 25th annual Spirit of Community Awards, a recognition already bestowed to some 130,000 middle and high school students across the country at the local, state and national level. Applications are due by Nov. 5 for the award, which showcases students who have given their time and talents to complete meaningful community service within the past 12 months.

The Spirit of Community Awards is the largest youth recognition program in the U.S. based solely on community service. Here’s how it works:

* Youth volunteers can participate by completing the online application by Tuesday, Nov. 5, then have the application certified by either their principal or the leader of a participating volunteer program (local chapters of the American Red Cross, YMCA, 4-H, Girl Scouts or Points of Light Global Network). From those applications, certifiers have until Nov. 15 to select local honorees to be presented for state-level judging.

* On Feb. 4, 2020, the top middle level and high school volunteer from each state and the District of Columbia will be named state honorees. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 scholarship, an engraved silver medallion and a four-day, all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., (with a parent or guardian) for recognition events from May 2 to 5, 2020.

* During special events in D.C., 10 of the 102 state honorees will be selected as America’s top youth volunteers. Each winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion and a crystal trophy for their nominating school or organization, in addition to a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation to a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice. “Distinguished Finalists” will receive bronze medallions, and runners-up will receive certificates and President’s Volunteer Service Awards (if their volunteer hours qualify).

Do you know young people with impressive records of volunteerism? Encourage them to get the recognition they deserve by applying for the Spirit of Community Awards by Nov. 5.

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