At , every junior is required to complete 24 hours of community service. Already, Senior Sean Waag has racked up 215 hours volunteering at St. Vincent's Villa Pot Spring, a residential treatment center for children with severe emotional and behavioral issues. And he has no plans to stop any time soon.
Sean isn't spending countless hours volunteering with troubled kids because it looks attractive to college counselors or to beat an existing service record. He just really enjoys helping people. He especially likes the feeling he gets after he's spent time at St. Vincent's Villa.
"It feels like I actually helped out in some way. It makes you realize that, no matter who you are, you can always make a difference in someone's life," Sean said.
Sean isn't the only person to recognize what a difference he makes in the lives of the children at St. Vincent's Villa. Cyndi Mitchell-Summers, volunteer services coordinator at the center, was so impressed with Sean's positive influence and work ethic that she nominated him for the 2011 Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award.
The award is distributed by Catholic Charities in memory of Anne Lindsey Otenasek, a young woman whose life was cut short in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. At the time of her death, Lindsey was majoring in Special Education at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), a decision influenced by her volunteer experience as a high school student at Notre Dame Preparatory School.
Sean's experience at St. Vincent's Villa began in the center's STAR program, short for Structured Therapeutic Arts & Recreation. "Sean has used his gifts to enhance our artistic activities with children. He's a positive role model, and they adore him," Mitchell-Summers said.
While Sean's forte in art allows him to share his time and talents directly with the young residents, the high school volunteer is not opposed to performing grub work at St. Vincent's as well, like organizing files in the back office.
"We have many volunteers from many schools in the area. But Sean always gives everything he has. No matter what we ask him to do, he smiles and says, 'No problem,'" Mitchell-Summers said.
Maybe his exemplary work ethic stems from the fact that Sean has been volunteering since he was 7. Back then, he donned a mascot costume at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, his mother's workplace, and enthusiastically greeted young visitors. You could say it hooked him on volunteering.
In the fall, Sean will attend Stevenson University, most likely to pursue a degree in business. But he has no doubt that he'll continue to carve out time in his schedule to maintain a presence at St. Vincent's.
"I intend to volunteer there for quite some time," he said.