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Sen. Moran Congratulates Two Kansas Students on Receiving 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award

Gracie Schram of Leawood and Saajan Bhakta of Wichita named top youth volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today met with Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood and Saajan Bhakta, 17, of Wichita, to congratulate them on receiving the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for their outstanding community service.

Gracie Schram was also named today as one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2012. Selected from a field of more than 26,000 youth volunteers across the country, Gracie received a personal award of $5,000 and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.

“Congratulations to Gracie and Saajan on being named as Kansas’ top youth volunteers,” Sen. Moran said. “This is an outstanding recognition and they should be very proud of their achievements and selfless contributions. I commend them for making a difference in the lives of Kansans in their own community and in communities across the world.”

Gracie Schram, an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, was inspired to action three years ago when her pastor returned from a mission trip to Africa with videos and photos of children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Gracie has been singing and writing music since her early childhood, so she decided to record and sell a CD of her own music and raised more than $20,000 to help families overseas. Because of her efforts, two villages in South Africa and Malawi now have a sustainable food and revenue source, and orphans in a small Haitian town near Port au Prince have a roof over their heads.

Saajan Bhakta, a senior at Northwest High School, founded a nonprofit organization called “PovSolve” to increase awareness of poverty in India and to raise money to alleviate the suffering of the poor in both India and Wichita. Sajaan was inspired to take action while on a trip to India, and upon his return to Wichita, he hosted information seminars in his community about world poverty and raised more than $9,000. On a recent trip to India, Sajaan personally delivered more than 500 blankets and other necessities to the poor and arranged for PovSolve to sponsor feeding sessions for more than 700 hungry Indians.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the country’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of HandsOn Network, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. More than 5,000 Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

The program was created in 1995 by Prudential in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to honor middle level and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state, and national level. The program seeks to recognize young people who already are making a positive difference in their towns and neighborhoods, and to inspire others to think about how they might contribute to their communities. Over the past 17 years, more than 345,000 young Americans have participated in the program, and more than 100,000 of them have been officially recognized for their volunteer efforts.

Click here to view photos of Sen. Moran visiting with Gracie and Saajan in his Washington, D.C., office.