By Tina Jenkin Bell
BAPA School Liaison
Each year, BAPA recognizes youth who are graduating from the 8th grade at local schools and academic centers for their commitment to volunteerism and leadership.
Profiles here are our impressive 2023 winners: Ayah Sol-Hall (MPHS), Brendon and Brandon Lewis (Kellogg), Cachet Matthews (St. Walter-St. Benedict), Georgia Motykowski (Sutherland), Abigail Parker (Clissold), Brendan Reilly (St. Barnabas), Thomas Sheahan (Christ the King), and Andrew Stodolny (St. John Fisher).
More BAPA Community Service Award winners will be profiled in The Villager’s July issue.
Cachet Matthews, 14, the Community Service Designee at St. Walter-St. Benedict School, said she loves to volunteer because she always learns something new.
Her volunteering resume ranges from helping as a park district junior counselor to environmental and spiritual projects.
Cachet has done a great deal of volunteering at Chicago Park District’s Graver Park, where she was a junior counselor last summer. She plans to return this summer to pick up where she left off. She has helped with clean ups and mulch spreading at Graver Park as well.
“I really liked being a junior counselor,” she said. “I met new people and had many new experiences. We had many theme days, a pajama day, a talent show where the counselors did a dance. It was fun!”
At St. Mary Magdalene Church, she volunteered at fundraisers, like fish fries by clearing tables and serving patrons. She also participated in Via Crucis, a ceremony in which youth walk Christ’s path to the cross. Cachet was a village woman in the procession.
Cachet will attend Morgan Park Academy this fall. She said whether volunteering, or studying or completing school work, she lives by the words of her grandfather, DeForest Taylor: “If you put your mind to it, you can do it.”
Great words for a great volunteer. Cachet’s nominating teacher is Lori Campione.
Clissold Elementary School
By Tina Jenkins Bell
Abigail Parker, 14, is Clissold School’s Community Service Designee for 2023. Abigail said she watched her family give even when they may have had little themselves, so giving back to the community has been innate, natural for her.
“’Helping others heals the soul,’” Abigail said, sharing her favorite quote. “I live by it because it is 100% true. A person can buy shoes or a new outfit or purse, but it never truly fills your heart.”
Abigail gives back to her community by donating money to the people who need it, advocating for various causes, and volunteering at school, home, and church.
Abigail’s 8th grade project, Hats & Hoods Heroes, was her favorite project because she was able to design it to help raise money to support children fighting cancer. To get that done, she held a fundraiser in February where students paid $2 to wear either a hat or a sweatshirt with a hood one day. Abigail raised $400 for the Megan Bugg Global Rhabdomyosarcoma Research Laboratory. According to the blog, Megan Bugg’s Journey, rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cancers are some of the most underfunded and least publicized types of childhood cancer.
The success of Abigail’s project made her happy because she had a personal connection. Her English teacher, Ms. Miceli, had a son who had passed away from alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma at the age of two.
“When I heard about the lab, it hit home in my heart,” Abigail said.
This fall, Abigail will attend Marist High School.
Andrew Stodolny, 14, was nominated by Principal Maura Nash as St. John Fisher School’s community service designee. Has participated in every service project that we have had through the school year,” Nash said.
According to Nash, Andrew is not only frequent contributor, he also volunteers for last minute tasks and anticipates needs before help is requested.
“When he volunteered to help with the Easter Egg Hunt, we needed to have someone hold the hand of a young four-year old student who was crying. Without being asked, Andrew got on his knees, smiled at the student, engaged him, and the two were off to the obstacle course,” Nash said.
“I do many acts of service, like helping teachers, neighbors with projects, and students with schoolwork,” Andrew said. He volunteered for St. John Fisher’s Veteran’s Day service, caroling at the nursing home, making greeting cards for soldiers, collecting food and pop tabs to raise dollars for the Ronald McDonald House, and helping out at the home work club and family night activities at his school.
Every month, he makes lunches for the Robbins Foundation as a part of Pro Labore Dei, which is one of his favorite activities.
Andrew said it makes him feel good inside to help others. Principal Nash would agree.
“Andrew is always the first person to volunteer and the first to say, ‘How can I help,” she said. “Andrew is the leader who goes out of his way to help at school and in the community.”
Andrew will attend St. Rita of Cascia this fall.
“’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,’” Ayah Sol-Hall, 13, said. “That quote really resonates with me. I’ve always had the mindset that if you are able to help then you need to… And you never know when you’re going to be the person that needs help.”
Ayah is Morgan Park High School’s 2023 community service designee. She was a student in the MPHS 7th-8th grade program, and has been volunteering since she could walk, an expectation of a community-conscious family.
Ayah’s passions are farming, cooking, and being in nature, so her community service projects have followed suit.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work that relates to food justice and access,” she said.
Ayah volunteered with a group called DoNation, whose project, Hashtag Lunchbag, was created to feed Chicago’s homeless. Through the Chicago Birth Works Collective’s Love Package project, Ayah compiled and disbursed care packages to young moms.
“Their goal is to help Black families who are struggling with money and who are also facing discrimination,” Ayah said, adding the packages contained things like diapers, baby formula, food, and toiletries. “My family also opened our home as storage space for many of the items that were yet to be sorted into care packages.”
Another of Ayah’s projects was Bountiful Harvest, an urban farm that teaches community members how to grow their own food and provides fresh produce at low costs. Ayah said she plowed soil, removed weeds, and planted and harvested crops. She also taught classes on farming and helped the group disburse food to families in need.
When it comes to giving back to her community, Ayah gets busy. “I am an empathetic person who has grown up with examples of activism and community involvement,” she said. “I think if you are able to do something to help people who are experiencing systemic inequities then you should.”
Ayah will attend Lindblom Math and Science Academy this fall.
Brandon and Brendon Lewis
Brandon and Brendon Lewis, both 14, are 8th graders at Kellogg School and share the school’s recognition for their service to the community.
Brandon and Brendon say they’ve volunteered since they were eight years old, when they began giving back at their church. Since then, their projects have graduated to focus on environmentalism. For their school project, the two collected 293 pounds of gently worn shoes to donate to Water Step.
Water Step is an organization committed to providing clean water in places like Western Kentucky where deadly tornadoes ravaged the land in 2021. Ecuador and Puerto Rico have also been Water Step beneficiaries. The group sells donated shoes to an exporter, and funds from the sales support Water Step clean water projects.
Brandon and Brendon also participate in community clean ups and say, “In order to make world better, we have to pitch in and do our part.”
Both young men will attend the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences this fall. They say they’ll keep working hard for the benefit of themselves, their family, and others.
St. Barnabas hool
By Tina Jenkins Bell
Brendan Reilly, 14, says his love for volunteering grew from his family’s example, particularly his grandma, Gerry Gainer.
“I’ve learned in my family that service to others is how you live a happy life,” Brendan said.
Brendan was nominated for the 2023 Beverly Area Planning Association’s (BAPA) community service award by his former second grade teacher, Grace Sadowski, who is currently the Assistant Principal at St. Barnabas School.
She wrote, “Brendan Reilly encompasses what it means to be a St. Barnabas Buckeye. His dedication, love, commitment and service both inside the walls of St. Barnabas, throughout our community, and beyond models for others the true meaning of what it means to be a servant leader.”
True to Sadowski’s description, Brendan is an active volunteer in his church, community, and in other parts of the city. He has volunteered most of his life, he says. Currently, he devotes time and service to Su Casa Catholic Worker, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, and BAPA. He is also an altar server at St. Barnabas Parish.
BAPA community events, including Clean and Green and Ridge Run, match Brendan’s passion for the great outdoors. However, Su Casa Worker has his heart because he loves making meals and then sitting down to serve and eat with people who may not normally cross his path. No surprise since his favorite quote is, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” He added, “I know if I needed help, people would be there for me.”
“We are so proud of all that Brendan has done, and we cannot wait to see what his future holds, there is no doubt it will be bright,” Sadowski said.
This fall, Brendan will attend Mt. Carmel High School.
For Georgia Motykowski, 14 and Sutherland’s 2023 community service designee, giving back is personal. “I like giving back to organizations and people who have helped my family and me,” she said.
Georgia’s mom passed away in 2016, but at one time, as a new mom, she needed – and received — help. Because of that and in her mom’s memory, Georgia’s 8th grade project supported the Courage program — the same program that helped Georgia’s mother. It is a Christian organization funded by donations and staffed by volunteers that assists women through unexpected pregnancies and the challenges of single parenting.
“Through involving my school, church, and community, I was able to raise $2,000 and collect four SUV-loads of baby supplies for the Courage Program,” Georgia said.
“Her project made a huge impact and earned a stop score on our IB rubric,” said Sutherland Principal Margaret Burns.
Georgia is also an altar server at St. Barnabas Church. Regarding all of she’s an active volunteer, she said, “because it’s my community, and I want to be involved.”
Appropriately, Georgia’s favorite quote is the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Georgia will attend Jones College Prep this fall.
Thomas Sheahan, 13, is Christ the King School’s community service designee. His nominating 8th grade teachers Donna Gentile-Ruth and Lee Ann Arethas had this to say about Thomas: “Tommy Sheahan has been involved in many service projects in Beverly. He puts his whole heart in the project and does not leave until the job is done. He is the student who is able to realize that a service project goes far beyond just the organization. It can make a difference to so many. He understands that a little goes a long way.”.
Since he was in the 6th grade, Thomas has helped with numerous volunteer projects at Christ the King School, including the St. Vincent DePaul Society food drive, a school-based Santa’s workshop, and an electronics recycling program.
Thomas said volunteering has taught him that “you don’t need to do a lot to make someone happy. All you have to do is care for that person and show that you respect them.”
Thomas’ favorite quote is, “If everyone helps make a difference, then we will all find ourselves in a happier place.”
Thomas will attend Mount Carmel High School this fall.