By: Grace Belize
There are countless reasons why I love my virtual school. Wyoming Virtual Academy’s flexibility allows me to participate in extracurricular activities and log a large number of volunteer hours.
I have a passion for helping others, especially children. Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes– was my extracurricular activity of choice. These shoeboxes are filled with gifts for children in third world countries, or who have been affected by war or natural disasters. My family helped with this cause throughout my childhood, but I wanted to learn more about the work and get more involved.
I received my Silver Congressional Medal this year and one of my goals for community service was to fill Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes and over two years time, I logged more than 200 volunteer hours. Year one was mainly independent work, but as my responsibilities and experience expanded, I enlisted the help of others. I was able to receive help from family members, neighbors, friends from church, and other folks from our community.
During year one, I had a goal of 100 shoeboxes, but filled 256. During year two, I wanted to have more than 256, and collected over 600!
Because of my volunteer hours and commitment to the cause, The Prudential Spirit of Community Service Awards named me the 2016 Wyoming High School Volunteer of the Year.
I’m proud of the letter and certificate I received from President Obama recognizing my volunteerism. Additionally, I received a $1,000 scholarship, silver medallion, and a four-day paid trip to Washington, D.C. There will be five high school and five middle school students from across the country selected to receive an additional $5,000, gold medallion, and $5,000 to the charity of their choice.
My younger sister, Faith, received a letter from one of the children who received a shoebox four years ago, and the two became pen pals. It was great to hear directly from a child affected exactly how much it meant to them.
I hope to keep working with Operation Christmas Child, and one day, be on the delivery team so I can see our hard work go full circle.
The cherry on top of this sundae is that the Wyoming Legislature presented me with a joint resolution signed by all of the Wyoming Senators and Representatives recognizing my volunteer work. I also received a personal letter of congratulations from Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Ballow and was invited to be a guest on a local radio morning talk show. How cool!
School choice enables me to partner with great organizations and be a part of something that’s bigger than myself. If I attended a traditional brick-and-mortar school, these one-of-a-kind opportunities wouldn’t be possible.