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Rachel Ley

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A Violin, a Smile and a Lifetime of Service

Posted: 09/13/2012 4:05 pm

In September of 2001, the United States was unexpectedly attacked by terrorists, leaving citizens in disarray after watching the Twin Towers burn. Later that month, a 4-year-old girl attended her first violin class, with very little knowledge of the tragedy that had recently struck her nation. As time went by, communities worked together to rebuild after the horrific events, and the little girl began to perform violin for the elderly.

This little girl found that one of her greatest passions was to see an older person's face light up after she had played "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." When she grew older, the girl continued to perform violin, eventually raising money for her local Humane Society and other causes, all because she loved to see her audience smile.

The little girl was me. At the age of four, I already had found two of my biggest passions -- playing violin and volunteering. Today, I am the founder of a program called Literacy for Little Ones, which encourages early literacy by donating book packages to three hospitals in North Central Wisconsin so that every child born can receive a new book. One of the most prominent reasons I have continued to volunteer for nearly 11 years is because I love to see the smile of someone's life that has been changed.

As a 15-year-old, I understand the tragedy that occurred on 9/11 much better than I could 11 years ago. I can feel the hurt, I can feel the pain, but most of all, I can feel the togetherness that the event brought. September 11 is now a National Day of Service and Remembrance so that we can remember the tragedy, but also recall how our country came together as one through service.

Never did I think that a tragic terrorist attack and my first violin lesson, both in September of 2001, would lead me to organize my largest service project yet. However, these two life-changing events have both proven the strength of my desire to serve and involve my peers in service as well.

I am now serving my second term in the generationOn National Youth Advisory Council, a group of 14 youth who encourage other young people to make their mark on the world through service. In particular, we engage youth in our communities to take action during national days of service throughout the year. The first project this year was September 11, and to honor the tragic event, I planned a service project called "9 Youth Groups, 1,100 Book Packages." I engaged nine different youth groups, including sports teams, student councils, and classes, throughout North Central Wisconsin to assemble 1,100 book packages for Literacy for Little Ones. This service project will impact 1,100 families and continue to spread the love of reading across North Central Wisconsin.

While brainstorming what I would do for my 9/11 service project, I knew that I wanted to involve as many teens and kids as possible. By bringing together young people from nine different groups, youth with many different backgrounds will be participating in the one thing that brought together so many different citizens after 9/11 -- service. As a part of "9 Youth Groups, 1100 Book Packages," youth will learn about September 11 and how it created a sense of togetherness in communities in the wake of the great tragedy. By uniting kids and teens in the North Central Wisconsin area around service, they will be able to experience the same togetherness that other citizens felt in the years after the attacks.

I'm excited about this service project, but I'm hardly done yet. I hope to expand Literacy for Little Ones to several other hospitals and continue to engage youth in my community while serving on the generationOn National Youth Advisory Council. Besides, Make a Difference Day is just around the corner and then it will almost be time to honor the work and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Most importantly, I will continue to perform violin, so that I can see that same smile that originally got me involved in volunteering.

 
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