Chatham, NJ - Chatham High School senior Naila Ismail has been honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a President's Volunteer Service Award. 

The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. Chatham High School nominated Naila for national honors this fall in recognition of her volunteer service. 

Ismail is a National Honor Society President and co-founder of Green Team Sustainability Club, Gold Award recipient through the Girl Scouts, and Captain of the CHS and Club Volleyball teams.

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In the summer preceding 11th grade, she interned at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in the area of drug resistance and infectious diseases, and, last summer, Naila attended an eight-week-long Mini-Med program at Rutgers in the spring of her junior year, while maintaining excellent grades in high school, and graduated from the program with honors. Ismail also designed the curriculum and taught an engineering enrichment class at the elementary school called "Make It or Break It" over the past two years, which has been a huge success. She is also the finalist for the PEO Stars Scholarship. 

For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she chose to tackle the issue of single-use plastics within the Chatham community. In her application for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Ismail said, "Recognizing the need for greater awareness of the detrimental effects of single-use plastic bags, I decided to tackle this issue within the Chatham community for my Girl Scout Gold Award. The support from the community far surpassed my expectations; I was able to collect over 1,000 pounds of plastic film, equivalent to more than 80,000 bags, in just over the course of six months.”

“The main purpose of my project was to raise awareness within the community. I achieved this goal by providing easily-accessible plastic bag recycling bins and sharing my initiative through the local newspaper, posters, and social media, which helped me to share my message to a wider audience," Ismail said. "I worked with my town’s councilmembers, Environmental Commission and high school Green Team, which I founded two years ago, to advocate for and help pass the single-use plastic bag ban ordinance. Please visit my website to know more about sustainability initiatives I’ve undertaken:".

CHS Principal Darren Groh said, “Naila's Gold Award project is a great representation of how Naila's concern for a change in our community can have a more global effect beyond Chatham. Her efforts are creating awareness within Chatham as similar changes are being made all around the country.”

Ismail"s counselor at CHS, Andrea Murphy, said, “While Naila’s strengths and accomplishments are many, her thoughtful nature and social responsibility stand out to me. I have been inspired and equally impressed with Naila's initiative and her intentional  approach to raising awareness, education, and increasing sustainability programs within both her school and surrounding community. Naila's passion and perseverance are clearly evidenced through her hard work and collaboration with the Chatham Borough Environmental Commission and council members in passing the ‘Ban the Bag’ ordinance.” 

In its 25th year, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service. 

“Across the United States, young volunteers are doing remarkable things to contribute to the well-being of the people and communities around them,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey. “Prudential is honored to celebrate the contributions of these students, and we hope their stories inspire others to volunteer, too." 

"Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life," said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. "These honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate." 

Prudential Spirit of Community Award application details were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Points of Light Global Network members. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advanced for state-level judging. In addition to granting President's Volunteer Service Awards, 

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.