The Wauwatosa Youth Commission honored four students at its meeting May 14 for their commitments to community service. The annual awards went to Wauwatosa West senior Caitlin Renaud, Wauwatosa East sophomore Claire Manske and Longfellow eighth-graders Sydney Evans and Olivia Lonski.
Andrea Gaines, vice chair of the commission, presented the awards. She said it was hard to choose just four.
"It really makes you proud," Gaines said. "There are so many young people so committed to giving back in the community."
Manske, who volunteers through her school and church, said while she values and enjoys service, it was nice for the community to recognize that, too. The Youth Commission, an arm of the city government, includes Wauwatosa students and community members.
"It's pretty cool that people are recognizing community service and all the things kids can do to help out in the smallest ways," Manske said.
In addition to participating in school clubs and mission trips, Manske helps with a summer soccer camp for students with special needs.
"My brother has some autistic behavior, and I've never looked at him differently, and I feel you shouldn't look at anyone differently," she said. "You learn so much from all these kids. It's just a great feeling when you're just making someone's day, and they're always so happy to be there even if they're not living the greatest life."
Both of the eighth-graders, Evans and Lonski, have worked especially hard on issues surrounding hunger. With a friend, Lonski has collected 51 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force, and she plans to collect more this summer.
"I like doing community service because I like helping someone, and I like the feeling afterward," Lonski said. "Just volunteering for an hour or donating a can of food can help change someone's life."
Evans has volunteered with places like the Gathering that provide free meals. She helps prepare the food, serves and chats with the individuals and families who come.
"I've learned that people are a lot like you, and they either made wrong decisions or ended up how they were, not even sure how they got there, but they're human too, and they all have stories," Evans said. "I just like seeing people happy. If someone can't enjoy their life, then you're going to want to fix that and help them because no one should have to go what they're going through."
Caitlin Renaud finds her niche at the humane society, where she feeds orphan birds, cleans cages and does whatever is needed. Next year, she plans to major in biology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she hopes to continue volunteering.
"It will always be part of my life," Renaud said. "I think it's important just to help out the community and do something for other people."
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