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High school athletes win varsity letters. Student thespians receive bouquets and applause. But what about students who are active in community service?

Sensing a void, the Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Insurance Company of America has teamed up with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to launch an awards program for students who dedicate their free time to helping others.

The program is part of a broader project, the Prudential Spirit of Community Initiative, which encourages young people to become active in their communities.

Middle and high school principals will solicit applications for the awards program from interested youths until Nov. 30 and choose one winner for every 1,500 students.

Two winning students from each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will then receive $1,000 awards, silver medallions, and trips to Washington. And from this group, 10 winners will receive an additional $5,000, gold medallions, and trophies for their schools.

"I think contributions to the community are certainly on a par with academic and sports achievement," said Michael Evans, the director of constituent programs at Youth Service America, a Washington-based umbrella group of youth-service organizations.

For more information on the awards program, call Wanda Carroll at the NASSP division of student activities at (703) 860-0200, ext. 252, or (800) 253-7746, ext. 252.

Prudential has also joined forces with the Center for Creative Leadership and YSA to recruit 10 to 15 host organizations to run youth- leadership training institutes.

Each institute will train 25 to 30 students in team-building, problem-solving, and goal-setting skills.

YSA will select the host groups from among its 250 member organizations, and will encourage them to build partnerships with such youth-serving institutions as schools, boys' and girls' clubs, and Scout councils.

For more information, call Cema de Moura Casto at YSA at (202) 296-2992, ext. 19.

Other components of the Spirit of Community Initiative include: a series of regional round tables on how young people can help solve community problems; an awards program co-sponsored by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism for outstanding high school journalism on the subject of community involvement; and an upcoming World Wide Web site on youth volunteerism and leadership.

--Meg Sommerfeld

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