Carroll County Times

Westminster High students receive President's Volunteer Service Award

High school students Christiana Sasser and Sadie Allgeier have made service to the community a major part of their lives starting at a young age.

The two Westminster High School seniors are being recognized for their dedication to service by receiving the President's Volunteer Service Award. Sasser was also one of six Maryland students recognized as distinguished finalists in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The President's Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President's Volunteer Service Award program to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers make in their communities and to encourage more people to serve. The awards thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the nation's largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. The program's goals are to recognize young people who already are making a positive difference in their communities and to inspire others to think about how they might contribute.

Dine Mongold, service learning coordinator and English teacher at Westminster High, said she lets students know about service awards and they apply independently. Westminster's principal, Kenneth Goncz, and Mongold nominated the two seniors for the Prudential award.

Through that action, both students were determined to qualify for the President's Volunteer Service Award, which includes receiving a certificate and letter signed by President Barack Obama.

"It's a really nice honor for both girls," she said. "They're terrific young ladies."

Sasser's main volunteer effort is her work with FoolProof, an improvisational theater troupe that teaches children about important issues like bullying and depression.

As part of the group for more than two years, she has spent hundreds of hours performing, practicing scenes and visiting organizations, such as Rape Crisis Intervention Services and police stations, to learn more about the themes they portray in their plays.

"This changes your perspective," she said. "You get to see life through other people's eyes and you get new perspectives."

The troupe visits rehab centers and other places in an effort to help people who are experiencing such issues. Sasser said they help people face their issues.

"Then they're able to heal themselves and get on the right path again," she said.

Sasser also volunteers at Bear Branch and helps with Meals on Wheels, an activity she started doing with her mother in middle school. Meals on Wheels delivers a nutritious meal and a safety check that helps keep seniors healthy, safe and living independently in their own homes each year, according to its website.

She believes volunteering in the community has changed her for the better.

"I would be a different person had I not been involved," she said. "I always thought that being involved in your community is one of the best things you can do."

Sasser said she was so happy to be recognized for her hard work and also happy to represent her school.

"I was and still am very honored and humbled. It's great that our nation sees community service as something very important because it definitely is," Sasser said.

A love for animals is what drew Allgeier into a life of service. She volunteers for the Baltimore County Humane Society, a no-kill shelter, and has fostered more than 20 cats over the last four years.

"I'm so passionate about animals," she said.

Fostering involves raising a kitten until it's old enough to be spayed or neutered, then returning it to the humane society for adoption. She has taken many cats on vet appointments and has bottle fed most of them.

"It's been a really great experience," she said. "They taught me how to let go of something you've loved, nurtured and raised. It's brought me a lot of joy."

Allgeier, who has accumulated more than 1,750 community service learning hours, also volunteers with the Carroll County Arts Council, helping with the Children's Theater. She grew up spending summers with the Arts Council and when she was old enough, began working as a camp counselor and intern.

"I love teaching the kids about all the different aspects of theater," she said.

Other volunteer efforts included helping with Congressman Chris Van Hollen's campaign and working as an assistant soccer coach.

"I think it's really important to give back to society," she said. "Especially because I think we benefit so much from where we live, from our status in life."

"I felt honored and proud to receive the award," she said. "Winning to me expressed the appreciation that others have for volunteerism and the significance that my volunteering had on the community."

Mongold said the two girls are not only aware of how rewarding service can be for the community, but know how personally rewarding it can be.

"I think they really understand the spirit of service," she said.