Kealakehe High Student Honored For Volunteer Efforts

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A student at Kealekehe High School has been honored as one of the nation’s top youth volunteers.

Candonino Agusen, a junior at the Kailua-Kona school, on Monday was named one of 10 honorees in the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.

Agusen helped to raise more than $64,000 to buy temporary housing kits for people displaced by the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. He recruited others to help him buy “Shelterboxes” that contained tent, equipment and 30 days worth of supplies for up to 10 people.

Candonino Agusen. Photo courtesy of Prudential.

The tsunami generated by the earthquake that struck Kona helped to inspire Agusen.

“As bad as it was, I saw that our disaster was not nearly as devastating as the widespread damage and destruction in Japan,” he said. “People were dying and desperately in need of life-saving shelter and equipment. According to Prudential, Agusen and his supporters set up collection jars in front of a local store and “campaigned vigorously” for donations on Facebook.


Within a few weeks, Agusen and his team had raised enough to take care of 640 earthquake victims for a month.

He contributed another $2,000 by making a thousand paper origami cranes and sending them to Japan as a symbol of support.

“I learned that overnight everything can change instantly, but disaster can bring people together for the good of all.”

Agusen, president of the Interact service club at his school, has participated in other relief efforts including sending care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan.


Eli Manning, MVP of the 2012 Super Bowl, was on hand at a dinner gala Sunday in Washington DC to honor the 102 youth volunteer finalists. The dinner was held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Projects involving other honorees included raising more than $30,000 for orphans in Uganda and establishment of a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $375,000 to provide educational resources to disadvantaged children in India and in the US.

State honorees receive an award of $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington DC for the awards events. National honorees like Agusen receive an additional $5,000, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their school and a $5,000 grant from the Prudential Foundation to be given to a nonprofit, charitable organization of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.


The 10 honorees were announced by Education Secretary Arne Duncan during a ceremony at the US Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

Prudential created the program in 1995 in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to honor middle and high school students.

Half of the 10 honorees are from high schools and half are from middle schools. They are chosen by a panel of prominent figures headed by Prudential chairman and CEO John R. Strangfeld.

Similar awards programs are held by Prudential in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland and India.


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