Teen wants more to volunteer

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SEDLEY—Olivia Walker doesn’t have a lot of free time.

When she’s not studying for her advanced placement classes or participating in extracurricular activities, the 18-year-old Southampton High School senior spends a lot of time volunteering and wishes more young people would.

While she completes the bulk of her volunteer service in the summertime, Olivia said she tries to squeeze some activities in during the school year.

“During the year, I try to base my schedule around what kind of school work I have and try to fit in different volunteer things when I can,” she said.

In 2007, Olivia even started her own organization, Operation School Supplies, to help provide students in Franklin and Southampton County with school supplies. So far, the organization has helped more than 800 families.

“I do it because I really want to do it and be a part of the community,” Olivia said. Operation School Supplies brought Olivia letters of appreciation from both the Franklin and Southampton County Departments of Social Services. Olivia plans to continue the program after she starts college in the fall.

Olivia’s volunteer efforts, as well as her academics, led Geraldine Fisher, the former cultural enrichment director at the Franklin Boys and Girls Club, to nominate Olivia for the International Leadership Network’s Leader of Tomorrow Award last year.

“I was excited about it, but I didn’t think I was going to win it,” Olivia said.

Olivia was named a Leader of Tomorrow and was the runner-up for the Leader the Year Award in 2009.

“I was really shocked,” she said. According to the International Leadership Network, in order to be considered for a Leader of Tomorrow, candidates were required to be outstanding leaders and achievers in a variety of areas, positive role models, good citizens in their schools and communities and good scholars.

Besides being able to help others, volunteering has other positive effects — especially for teens, Olivia said.

“A lot of my friends don’t really volunteer that much and it helps you when you try to apply to college.”

Olivia and her mother, Sandra Walker, said colleges want students who are active in their communities and have good grades.

Olivia plans to pursue a nursing degree at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise — she sent off her application last week. After that, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in pediatric nursing at the University of Virginia.

Asked why she wants to be a nurse, Olivia said, “For the same reason I volunteer — I like to help people.”

President’s Volunteer Service Award allows people to track their volunteer hours online. Over the past five years, Olivia volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

Sandra Walker said she has noticed a difference in her daughter since she started volunteering.

“I think it has benefited her socially,” Walker said. “I think it benefits kids to interact with folks from all walks of life, because we live in a world that’s very diverse.”