Local Teens Making a Difference
SARATOGA COUNTY — Even the youngest of us can provide the greatest lessons in giving. This holiday season, area schools reached out to Saratoga TODAY to share the stories of local teenagers who recognized a need in their communities and stepped up to do something about it.
From collecting shoes for the needy a half a world away to training to fight fires, young people are setting aside the free time they could be spending on electronic devices to put the community around them first.
Elizabeth Ashworth, 17, is a senior at Ballston Spa High School. She hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America with a focus on baking. But a couple years ago, when she was told she wasn’t old enough to help the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), she didn’t let that stop her from finding a way to do her part.
“I organized a collection [of item donations] for the SPCA throughout our neighborhood,” Ashworth said, “and put flyers and posters up, and collected and delivered the donations to the one in Queensbury.”
Now in its third year, Ashworth’s “Trick or Treating” for SPCA takes place each Halloween. She consults the SPCA website to see what items are needed, generates a flyer, and distributes it throughout her entire community. Then on the pre-determined date she collects all donated items, which are left at each person’s mailbox. Behind, she leaves a special thank you note. From there she sorts and delivers all the items. In 2013 she donated two carloads worth of items. In 2014 she donated 3 carloads and monetary donations.
“We collect food, cat toys, stuffed animals for dogs, chew toys, sheets and towels, litter and food treats, among other things,” said Ashworth. “That first year, the lady was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to put everything. They rely on donations, and are so happy to get them. I love that fuzzy feeling I get knowing that even though I can’t adopt all the animals, I make their lives a little better while they wait for a family.”
Elizabeth Watson, 17, is a senior at Schuylerville High School. She hopes to go into biomedical or chemical engineering. She has been participating in her youth church group for quite some time, such as the church garage sale this weekend, Friday November 13 and Saturday November 14 at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs.
“With the funds we raise, we will get Christmas lists from families in need and go to Target and get them,” she said. “I am glad we can help people that can’t afford simple things like Christmas presents. Sometimes they put toothbrushes and toothpaste on the lists, and it’s sad for me to see that they actually need these things, like clothes and shampoo, but it makes me happy that we can get it for them.”
Watson hopes to continue volunteering through college and long after. “There’s Engineering Without Borders, that help developing countries get clean water for themselves or their plants,” she said. “I think it’s [volunteering] just something that everyone needs to do – if they have the ability to help someone, it’s a necessity that they do.”
Schuylerville senior Anna Moreau, 17, said she loves to read and volunteering at the public library regularly over the years has been a “no-brainer” for her.
“I love community service,” she said. “Whatever they needed me to do, I do it. We make capes for a bunch of the kids for a parade, have tea parties, read to them, and just have a really great time over there.”
She also volunteers at St. Clement’s Church with four to seven year olds. She said she started volunteering as a service requirement for the National Junior Honor Society, and discovered she loved it.
“I think it’s important to volunteer and give back,” she said. “I’m capable of doing it, and it’s great to inspire people younger than me to do the same.”
Jacob Dooley, 17, also a Schulyerville senior, hopes to study fire science and technologies as well as paramedicine in college. He currently volunteers at the Quaker Springs Fire Department.
“When I grew up, my father was a fireman there,” said Dooley, “and I really liked it, so when I was old enough I joined. I started there in the junior program at 14. There’s a lot of training to get started off, two to three-week course of introduction to firefighting.”
He said he has received training to go into a burning building – but can’t do it until he’s 18. “Everyone gets nervous and stuff like that and you just overcome it and keep working,” he said about the dangerous aspects of the job. He said for those who would like to volunteer without that aspect, there’s plenty to do.
“There are so many things you can do on a fire call,” he said. “It’s not all burning buildings. There’s car accidents and stuff. There’s traffic control, truck drivers, ladders and hose, lots more to do than that. I love it because, although it can be a little nerve wracking at first, we build great bonds and it teaches you how to be a good person in the community. It’s a great opportunity.”
The opportunity stretches far beyond what the volunteer student receives. These young people are quietly making an impact on their whole communities.
“These students are outstanding young leaders and invaluable contributors to our school and community at large, each in their own unique way,” said Schuylerville High School Principal Matthew Sickles. “Whether it’s initiating and implementing new opportunities for their classmates here at school, volunteering their time to keep our outside community members safe, or serving those in need, these students truly reflect the spirit of the Schuylerville school community by putting others first. As principal, I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing work they do without being asked and the positive example they set for their peers.”
Brit Douglas, JV lacrosse player and 10th grade student at Ballston Spa High School and Josh Porcell, owner and CEO of Rogue Lacrosse have teamed up with Warrior Lacrosse, King Dyes, Grunt Lacrosse, Darkstar Lacrosse Dyes, East Coast Dyes, The Siena Men’s Lacrosse Team and Swift Stix Lacrosse to support the troops.
The combined project has produced 100 Warrior Burn Lacrosse heads that have been dyed with patriotic and military themes. The heads will be available for purchase online through the RogueLacrosse.com website. Funds raised from this team venture will be donated to the Navy SEAL Foundation, Team Red, White and Blue and The Wounded Warrior Project.
Douglas raises funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and two related groups. He did it mainly through his involvement with Lacrosse. He worked on a second campaign in April-May 2015. Warrior Lacrosse donated the heads, 3 different companies dyed the heads, East Coast Mesh donated the mesh and the men’s Siena Lacrosse Team did the stringing of the heads.
Together they raised $12,000. $5,000 was presented to WWP at their gala event at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC in May and $3,500 was sent to Team Red, White and Blue and $3,500 was sent to the Navy Seal Foundation. It was a huge success.
“My father is a Marine Colonel,” said Douglas, “and when he was a Company Commander he led three different companies of Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When they got back, he worked closely with the Wounded Warrior Project [WWP] to make sure that the Marines that were wounded and disabled during the deployments got the continued help that they needed after they were discharged from the Marine Corps. I met the WWP directors at some WWP events and I have seen first hand the work that WWP has done to improve the lives of some of my father’s Marines.”
Even though Douglas had volunteered at WWP events, he wanted to do something on his own that made a difference.
“When I was playing modified lacrosse,” he said, “I had a Warrior lacrosse head and I thought it was neat that they both used Warrior in their names (I was 12). I started brainstorming ways to combine the two. I figured if the guys at Warrior lacrosse had a way to help our service members that they would, and they did. My coach, Josh Porcell knew some of the Warrior reps and they loved the idea. They sold us 75 heads at cost and donated the other 25 and then King Dyes volunteered to dye all the heads.”
Douglas feels that everyone has a role to play in giving back as a way of showing thanks for what we have, and not just during the holidays. “I have learned that anyone can find themselves needing help, you never know what your future will bring and that if everyone does a little bit, we can make a big difference,” he said. “I am most thankful for the love and support of my family and the freedom we have in our great country. But I am also thankful for all of my teachers, coaches, and leaders that share their knowledge and provide me with motivation and encouragement.”