It gives us a great deal of pleasure to learn that the concept of “paying it forward” does not end when students graduate and leave SSJ! Last June, we were made aware of an extraordinary service project initiated by an SSJ alumna, with the help of her wonderful family.
Krysten Lawhead (Class of 2011) is a senior at Edison High School this year. She has been active in Girl Scouts for the past 12 years, and recently earned her Girl Scout Gold Award. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and only 5 to 6 percent of all Girl Scouts ultimately earn this award. For her Gold Award project, Krysten organized a club named Talents Take Action whose main goal was to raise awareness about global humanitarian issues by offering aid, support and hope to those in desperate need. The club’s initial project was to help the victims of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines, particularly the children in the city of Tacloban. In November 2013, the most powerful typhoon to ever strike land in the Philippines left more than six thousand people dead, four million people displaced and much of the city flattened. Krysten and the other members of Talents Take Action decided to use their talent and passion for baking to raise funds. They baked and sold over one thousand cupcakes and, with those funds and other generous donations totaling over $6,000, were able to purchase school supply kits, teachers’ supplies, backpacks, toothbrushes/toothpaste, shoes/slippers, balls and sports equipment. They also collected stuffed toys for the emotionally traumatized children, and books and encyclopedias to start a new school library.
In April, Krysten, her mom and her brother, Brian (SSJ 5th grade) traveled to the Philippines to personally deliver and distribute the donations to more than 1,000 children in three different schools. Krysten said, “I could not believe the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. The pictures I had seen prior to arriving were all so real. Amazingly, despite the people’s tragedy, I was inspired by their strong faith, courage and positive outlook they still have in their daily lives. The children were all so excited, happy and appreciative. For me, it was more than enough just to see their happy faces. I know that for that moment, we helped them forget their problems. It was truly a very rewarding and humbling experience. As we boarded the plane back to Manila, I prayed that help would continue to come as there is so much more that needs to happen for them and their families.”
During their trip, Krysten and her family got a tour of the Malacanang Palace (the White House of the Philippines) followed by lunch. During their visit, they had the honor of meeting the President of the Philippines, President Benigno S. Aquino III, who personally thanked Krysten for all her work. She was also asked to be a guest on Good Morning Boss, a national TV morning show in the Philippines, to be interviewed regarding her project. Her aunt and Brian also joined her for the interview. When asked what she learned most from her project, Krysten said, “My Girl Scout Gold Award project has taught and empowered me to push beyond my comfort zone and limits. I discovered that even at a young age, anything you put your heart and passion into is possible. It has been a phenomenal experience, one I will treasure for the rest of my life.” Click here to view interview.
In addition to Girl Scouts, Krysten is a member of the Edison dance team, a captain on the varsity track team and a leader in Youth Ministry at SSJ. What a powerful example Krysten is to all of us! She is certainly someone who is truly “living her Catholic faith.”