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Kinston teen one of two honored for volunteerism

Michael Phelps, Victoria Kosinski and Caleb Lumpkin

WASHINGTON - Two North Carolina teens, one from Kinston were recently honored during the 22nd annual The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Victoria Kosinski, 18, of Kinston, and Caleb Lumpkin, 14, of Winston-Salem, received the honor. Below is a full press release on the event.

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North Carolina's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Victoria Kosinski, 18, of Kinston and Caleb Lumpkin, 14, of Winston-Salem, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Victoria and Caleb - along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country - each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Victoria and Caleb North Carolina's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events. Victoria, a member of Girl Scouts North Carolina Coastal Pines and a senior at Kinston High School, taught a self-defense course and coordinated the renovation of a new domestic violence shelter in her community as part of her multi-faceted program to empower women and educate the public about domestic violence. Victoria was volunteering to help the homeless when she met the director of a local domestic violence program. "She told me about the needs of women who were victims of DV," she said. "She shared that many DV survivors become homeless, so I made the decision to develop a program to serve these women." Victoria, the holder of a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, began by teaching unarmed self- defense skills to 60 women, using a PowerPoint presentation that included information on domestic violence and what to do when faced with an armed intruder. After learning that a building had been donated to the United Way, Victoria volunteered to lead a renovation project and turn it into an 18-bed facility for women and children fleeing abuse. She reached out to the community for donations of beds, appliances, clothing, food and other items through flyers, social media, and interviews with the press. She also rallied volunteers and secured the donation of major landscaping and construction services from a hardware store. The new facility opened last fall. Caleb, an eighth-grader at Winston-Salem Christian School, is a volunteer facilitator of a book club that teaches and encourages people with intellectual disabilities to read. A couple of years ago, while performing in a community musical, Caleb befriended a man with Down syndrome. "He is one of the nicest people I have ever met and we formed a close bond," said Caleb. After the show was over, the man's mother told Caleb about the Next Chapter Book Club, a nonprofit organization that sponsors community book groups for adolescents and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other intellectual disabilities. She asked Caleb if he would be interested in becoming a facilitator. After training to lead a group, Caleb began meeting with five or more adults of varying reading abilities on Sundays. Typically, Caleb's group each week reads two to five chapters of books designed for early readers. "When they get to read a story and sound out words by themselves, the joy on their faces is indescribable," said Caleb. When the readers finish a book, the club has a party to celebrate their accomplishment. "I have learned to never judge a book by its cover," said Caleb. "All people are special and no one should be judged or experience discrimination ... and everyone deserves to hear or read a good book!" "These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers." "It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference." Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year's program. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service - and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level. For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees, visit spirit.prudential.com or nassp.org/spirit.

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