Heather Paglia receives The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards metal of honors

New Jersey’s Top Youth Volunteers of 2021 Selected by National Program

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors Edison and Perrineville students with a $2,500 scholarship, silver medallion, and invitation to the virtual celebration for their work addressing the challenges of a changing world.

Prudential Financial, Inc. 
Feb 09, 2021, 10:06 ET

NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Manan Shah, 17, of Edison and Heather Paglia, 14, of Perrineville today were named New Jersey’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service.

As State Honorees, Manan and Heather will each receive a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national recognition celebration in April, where 10 of the 102 State Honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year. Those 10 National Honorees will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their nominating organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit charitable organization of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service.

“We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they’re making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.”

These are New Jersey’s top youth volunteers of 2021:

High School State Honoree: Manan Shah
Nominated by John P. Stevens High School

Manan, a senior at John P. Stevens High School, started a nonprofit virtual tutoring service with a friend last April that has recruited more than 350 high school students in 15 chapters to help kids in grades K-8 adapt to online classrooms once their school buildings closed due to COVID-19. When the virus forced his school district to shift to online instruction, “I realized that many students were likely struggling with the sudden change,” said Manan. “For younger students who rely more on interacting with their teachers, this transition must have been especially difficult.” With a track record of community service, Manan knew he could help, so he asked a classmate to join him in launching a nonprofit called “LimitlessMinds.”

The two began promoting their tutoring service on a website and social media, and reached out to school principals in their town to help both recruit students willing to become tutors and identify younger kids who needed their assistance. Manan also asked acquaintances he had met through summer programs and other activities to consider starting LimitlessMinds chapters in their hometowns, and provided them with guidance and a blueprint for implementation. Since he began, Manan’s program has conducted more than 4,000 hours of virtual tutoring for 550 kids in locations as far away as El Salvador and Pakistan. Initially, Manan said he envisioned his project as “a solution to the struggles of virtual school.” But now, “I hope that it will remain a valuable resource to students around the world long after the pandemic subsides.”

Heather, student at The Hun School of Princeton, raised more than $100,000 to support small businesses, frontline workers, senior citizens and others impacted by COVID-19.

Middle Level State Honoree: Heather Paglia
Nominated by The Hun School of Princeton

Heather, an eighth-grader at The Hun School of Princeton, has helped to raise more than $100,000 to support small businesses, frontline workers, senior citizens, and others impacted by COVID-19, and has worked to collect nearly 6,000 pounds of food and personal care items for people in need since March 2020. When many local restaurants and other businesses were forced to shut down last spring because of the pandemic, Heather was “shocked at what we were hearing on the news,” she said. “We knew that our local businesses were hurting.” She also worried about older people isolated from their loved ones, and about the risks to frontline workers. Heather and her brother decided to solicit donations on behalf of these and other groups struggling with the pandemic, first through GoFundMe and then their own website, where they requested contributions of just $5.

After promoting their initiative through social media and local news outlets, the Paglia siblings got a huge boost with an interview on a national network. Donations began pouring in from all across the country. In addition to directing these contributions to frontline healthcare workers, small businesses and senior citizens, Heather and her brother have supported efforts to feed the hungry and rescue animals, and to assist young people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, and families dealing with cancer. The pair also organized a holiday gift drive, and is collecting shoes for people in need overseas.

State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several Distinguished Finalists and runners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President’s Volunteer Service Awards. 

“It speaks volumes about the character of today’s secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 applicants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need,” said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. “While we’re especially proud to celebrate this year’s 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who’s found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give.”

To read the names and stories of all of this year’s State Honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com.

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial wellness leader and premier active global investment manager, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees help to make lives better by creating financial opportunity for more people. Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit news.prudential.com. 


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council. Learn more at http://nassp.org.

SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.

Our time: 5:18pm UTC