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Sen. Daniel K. Akaka

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Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate Candonino Agusen and Jackson Button, two students from my State, who were named as top youth volunteers for 2012 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The awards were created in 1995 through a partnership between Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to honor middle and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, State, and national levels.

Every year, the top high school and middle school youth volunteers from each State and the District of Columbia are selected as State Honorees. Each honoree receives a $1,000 award, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for several days of national recognition events. In addition, other noteworthy students from each State are named Distinguished Finalists and receive a bronze medallion for their contributions.

After the natural disasters in Japan in 2011, Candonino, a junior at Kealakehe High School, recruited others to help him purchase temporary housing kits for the victims displaced by the earthquake and tsunami. These kits included a tent, survival equipment, and a month of supplies for up to 10 people. His team raised more than $64,000, enough to take care of 640 earthquake victims for a month. Candonino contributed another $2,000 by making and sending 1,000 paper origami cranes to Japan as a symbol of support.

Jackson, a middle school student at Hawaii Technology Academy, co-founded a nonprofit organization with his sisters that has raised nearly $100,000 to support a wide variety of projects aiding children in Africa, Mexico, and the United States. Some of the projects funded by the organization include scholarships for children who have lost a parent to cancer or other diseases, a solar heater for a Mexican orphanage, and school supplies for underprivileged students in Hawaii. Through the nonprofit, Jackson and his sisters even arranged for a van to take HIV/AIDS orphans in Uganda to medical appointments, and bought four acres of land in that country to grow food and build a new orphanage.

I would also like to recognize Scott Fetz of Kailua-Kona and Jessica Sonson of Ewa Beach who were named the 2012 Distinguished Finalists from Hawaii, as well as the many other individuals who contribute to the improvement of our communities every day. Our Nation is a better place because of people like these young leaders, who are making a difference in their communities and around the world. These students, like many volunteers, do not perform these services for recognition. I am grateful for awards that acknowledge their selflessness so that these role models can serve as inspiration for others. I am proud of all that these students have accomplished, and I wish them the best in their bright futures.