The awards program, now in its 16th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Also nominated was Blakely Colvin of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. As state honorees, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they’ll join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events.
While in Washington, D.C., Tyler and all the state honorees will tour the capital’s landmarks, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2011 and will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit, charitable organizations of their choice.
Tyler held a carwash hoping to rescue just one child from being sold into slavery in Ghana, but ended up sparking a kids’ fundraising enterprise that has involved hundreds of young people and generated more than $100,000 for a variety of children’s causes.
When he was 10, Tyler saw a TV program about children in Ghana sold by their parents into forced fishing labor. “I couldn’t stand how they were being treated, so I decided to do something about it,” he said. He proposed the idea of a carwash to his fourth-grade class, and invited everyone who wanted to help. Tyler’s goal was to raise $240 – enough to support one Ghanaian child for a year. But when the carwash was concluded, he had $1,175 in hand.
Realizing then the power of kids to make a difference, Tyler started recruiting young people throughout his community to help him raise money. They hosted more carwashes, sold cookies, set up lemonade stands and conducted other fundraisers. His mother helped him establish a nonprofit organization called Kids Helping Kids and a website to inspire kids everywhere to make a difference in their communities and support their own fundraising ideas.
To date, $100,000 has been raised to aid children in Ghana, provide books for young victims of Hurricane Katrina, meals for families locallt and around the global, candy for troops in Iraq, assistance to kids with major medical expenses, and other causes. “The funny thing is, I’ve learned that it really isn’t about the money at all,” said Tyler. “It seems to me that it is really about connecting the human spirit.”
According to Adams Principal Scott Vernoy, “Not only has Tyler’s organization, Kids Helping Kids, benefited children in his community, school and in a place far from Tyler’s California home, it has created an outstanding educational opportunity for children in our area. In our abundant life, in a small, rural community, our children do not witness crime, poverty and destitution. Tyler’s project has brought to light that not all children live a life like ours, and that even children can do something about it.”
In the words of Prudential Financial Chairman and CEO John R. Strangfeld, “These award recipients have proven that young people across American are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our nation and our world. Each and every one of these honorees deserves our respect and admiration, and we hope by shining a light on them, they will continue to serve as an example for others.”
Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, echoed Stangfels’ thoughts. “The young people recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards demonstrate an enormous capacity for giving and reaching out to those in need,” he said. “NASSP is proud to honor these students leaders because they are wonderful examples of the high caliber of young people in our nation’s schools today.”
Tyler also qualified for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.
For more information, call Vernoy at 925-513-6450.