Most high schools require students to perform a certain number of community service hours, but sixteen-year-old Leah Sirmalis took that to a whole new level. In just one year the East Providence teen put in more than three hundred and sixty hours doing everything from collecting donations, to charity runs to teaching water safety to young girls. She also designed and developed “LEAHSTAR.” a community service program to teach health and fitness for the cities’ summer camp.
“I became involved because lack of proper nutrition and physical activity is a growing epidemic all over the world. I participate in sports and wanted to share my knowledge of what I know about staying healthy and eating right. I made and printed a kid-friendly recipe book for over 180 campers,” states Sirmails. “I also wanted to let kids know that you do not have to be involved in sports to exercise.”
Matthew’s journey took him to Guatemala in February of 2015 where he spent a month working with the organization, Hope of Life in Zacapa Llano Verde. There, Vargas found himself among the poorest of the poor and the eighteen year old took the opportunity to make a difference. Vargas helped feed families, built wheels for fresh water, played with the kids around the villages, and took care of the kids at the Kelly House, a special needs home.
“It is important to give back and help others because that is the way to end poverty working together,” states Vargas. “Also, because my father always told me the best feeling in this world is helping others that can never repay you. The reason I chose this project is because I wanted to go to my parents’ home country and help make a difference, even if it was only a little, I wanted to help.
The art of giving is not just a saying, for one seventeen year old, it’s a passion. A passion that she turned into a nonprofit. Amy Harff of Barrington wanted to share her love for art, poetry and education and created “The Art of Giving”. Through her partnerships with organizations such as the Galigo Housing Development, Tiverton Sandywoods Boys and Girls Club, East Providence Boys and Girls Club and Prospect Housing Development, her project influenced more than 100 students throughout Rhode Island.
“By explaining how their work would impact thousands of hospital patients, I encouraged the children to participate in community service while also instilling them with a sense of satisfaction that comes from helping others,” states Amy Harff. “My final step was to make the cards. The first part of this process was to select a few pieces of work that would be made into cards. I paired ten poems with ten pieces of art. Next, I scanned the art work, typed up the poems, and formatted the cards. Then, Paula Most and I met with the Printing and Food Services departments of the RI Hospital. Paula Most and I launched the project in May 2014. More than 300 patients received cards in the first week of distribution.”
“It is important to give back to the community, because I am so fortunate to live in such an amazing community where I have met inspiring people and have been helped by many volunteers during my life,” states Harff. “By giving back, I feel like I am thanking them for helping me to learn, explore, and achieve my goals. It is also important to give back because I believe that as moral citizens, it is our duty to contribute to our community.
Lindsay Russell is the twenty third winner of a Metta Students grant. She believes that every child deserves a fair chance. That is what spurred her to co-found the Gender Equality Club at her high school. The club works to promote awareness about gender inequalities in the community, and the world as a whole.
Lindsay was nominated by one of her teachers, Erin P. Woulfe for her efforts to change the worls and her selfless attitude toward her work. Erin put together a book drive that collected one thousand books and $500 in donations which will go to the African Library Project to help boys and girls in Swaziland learn to read. The library there will serve over 300 children.
She even put herself second to her cause in accepting her grant, she said, “It feels great to win the Metta grant. I'm so unbelievably grateful, but what I'm most thankful for is that this story will raise awareness for our cause in Africa. I hope that we can inspire other people to get involved in the both the feminist movement and the African literacy cause. It's been a rewarding process and I'm so excited about being a Metta student!”
The February 2015 recipient of the Metta Students Foundation $1,000 grant is Libby Walker of Hopkinton Rhode Island.
“Libby Walker is an exceptional young lady. Not only is she a top academic student, Libby understands the importance of giving back to the community,” says Barry Ricci the Superintendent of Schools at the Chariho Regional School District. “While Libby has been involved in other service activities, her Shovel Brigade project is unique in that Libby initiated, planned, and supported a group activity to assist members of our community unable to shovel their drives and walks. This successful endeavor sets her apart in that she has set a high bar for other students who are interested in giving back to their community.
“I started the Shovel Brigade because one winter night, it occurred to me that once I had gone off to college, my parents wouldn't have anybody to shovel for them, and they would either have to do it themselves, or find somebody else to shovel,” says Walker, “I knew that as time went on, it would become harder and harder for them to complete this task. Then I started to think about people currently in this situation. I wondered what they did in heavy snow storms. It was then that I decided I needed to create a volunteer program that would come to the aid of these elderly and handicapped Chariho residents.”
The Shovel Brigade is a free volunteer service, with the help of fifteen student volunteers and several parent drivers, the Shovel Brigade has helped more than thirty-six individuals over the past four years on numerous occasions during winter storms.
The January 2015 recipient of the Metta Student’s Foundation $1,000 grant is Sophie Nerone of the East Bay School in Newport, Rhode Island.
Sophie accompanied her mother, founder of the Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund, to volunteer for the organization serving underprivileged children in Vietnam.
Sophie was nominated by her advisor at the East Bay Met School who describes her service best, saying, “Through starting a non-profit with her family and volunteering through that non-profit in the summers, Sophie shares her love for music and the arts with students who otherwise would not have the opportunity. Additionally, Sophie shares this unique light she has with her school community by bringing the stories from her work in Vietnam back with her. Sophie is a young person who is filled with compassion for others and a brilliant mind that fights against the injustices of the world with her violin. I am inspired by young people who decide to make the world a little bit brighter by seeing a place where they can make a difference and going after it with all their heart. Sophie is one such young person and it is an honor to be a part of her journey.”
Our November and December Metta Recipients for 2014 are power couple Blanca Colato and Justin Crespo, known to friends as “Blustin.” The high school sweethearts are known for their athleticism and they both placed first this year in a September triathlon hosted by JROTC.
The two-day triathlon consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, and in the end the victors received a trophy for Iron Man and Iron Woman. Winning the competition was a great feat but it’s what this dynamic duo did after the competition that caught the attention of the Metta Students Foundation. Rather than taking the trophies home, eighteen year old Crespo and seventeen year old Colata decided to give them away to special needs students who also competed in the triathlon.
“At first I wasn't thinking of giving away the trophy,” says Crespo,”it was when a freshman special needs student took the challenge. Seeing him participate in every event, and getting up and smiling when he completed the challenges made me smile. He was very proud of himself, which he should have been, because he had a great score. At that moment I said to myself he deserves this trophy. I then personally hand delivered it to him.”
Colato says her boyfriend’s act of kindness inspired her to share metta, “To see that happy face made my heart literally melt to the core. It was an eye watering moment because it wasn't just her with the smile it was all of her friends! They were all so proud of their friend and it made me so happy. Even after we left the room they were still cheering and I'm sure that they're still cheering to this day.”
Our October 2014 Metta Student recipient is Sarah Schumacher. Sarah is the current president of the EGHS Chapter of Best Buddies, an international organization that helps spread disability awareness through pairing those with and without Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (IDD) in one-to-one friendships.
In addition, Sarah is a member of Student Council and Real Girls Matter. Real Girls Matter works to spread the gender equality movement throughout the EG schools and beyond.
“It is important for me to give back because it makes me realize what I have and how fortunate I am,” says Schumacher. “I enjoy giving back to EGHS because it is truly a great school. So many kids go to schools that can't even afford basic necessities like heat, books, paper and all things we, myself included, take for granted.
Jose was nominated because of his actions while on a summer school field trip to Oakland Beach. Jose noticed that one of the students went in over her head and did not come back up. Without hesitation Jose ran into the water and using skills he learned in the SERT program brought the girl to the beach. Seeing she was unresponsive he began the CPR cycle. She began to breathe on her own and was transported to the hospital. She made a full recovery.