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Students practice being philanthropists

Six of our students participated in the Youth Philanthropy Council sponsored by the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. High school students from the area sit on the council, and their primary duty is to recommend the awarding of grants to organizations that benefit youth. PHS students on this year’s council include seniors Bryce Drury, Charlie O’Bryant, and Alex Henderson, junior Claire Reyes, and sophomores Katie Huff and Ryley Gunther.
Ryley said he enjoyed being on the council. He was on the team that made the presentation to recommend a grant for Miles for Merry Miracles and found it rewarding.

“It was an opportunity for us to learn how to properly award grants to organizations and what those organizations are doing,” Ryley said.

Alex said she joined the council this year because she was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about local philanthropy projects.

“Not only were we exposed to different local foundations who help people in need, we were also able to connect with students of all ages from schools around the community,” Alex said. “This was my first year on the Youth Philanthropy Council and I’m so glad I was able to participate.”

Claire said she was glad she applied after reading about the opportunity in school announcements.

“I saw it as an opportunity to be involved in the community in addition to just being involved at my parish and in school,” Claire said. “I really liked getting to meet new people. And I liked the process of going through the applications and determining who deserved the grants.”

Claire also recommends that students sign up to participate next year.

“It’s a good opportunity, and you can learn a lot,” Claire said.

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Two seniors earn Eagle Scout rank

Seniors Matthew Nokes and Sam LaMaster recently were named Eagle Scouts by the Boy Scouts of America, the highest rank  in Boy Scouts and one that requires advancement through several ranks, the earning of more than 20 merit badges, and organizing a service project. Both belong to Boy Scout Troop 4010 at St. Anthony Parish and have been in Scouting since first grade.

Sam’s project was to design, build, and install shelving in a gym loft and maintenance building at St. John Paul II School in Sellersburg. He spent 188 hours overall including planning and on-site work. With the help of his grandfather and father, Brian LaMaster ’89, who are skilled at woodworking, he was able to design the shelves, and he then organized several work days to install them with the help of members of his troop and some of his friends.

His father donated the wood for the shelves, having saved it for another project and then didn’t need it. Sam then asked family to contribute money for the rest of the supplies, raising about $100.

Sam said he learned a lot in organizing the project and fulfilling all the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank.

“It felt like a good opportunity for me to use all the skills from my years in Scouting,” Sam said. “I finally had a chance to put all those together and have an application for them. It also proved my leadership skills overall.”

He said he feels a great relief having completed the project and the process to apply for the rank advancement. Often, the Eagle Scout rank is a culminating experience for a Boy Scout, but Sam said he intends to stay involved. He enjoys the troop’s service projects, such as helping at Lanesville Heritage Weekend, and the troop’s adventures. Every other summer, the troop has taken a big trip. He took part in one to Alaska that included mountain climbing and white water rafting in Class 4 rapids and one to northern Minnesota canoeing along the Canadian border, which was the more difficult because it was a survival trip that required them to fish for food.

Matthew also feels a great relief having his Eagle Scout project complete. Although the project required only 130 hours of works time, the process was spread over 18 months because the parameters of the project changed within a few months of his starting on it. Last October, he completed the rebuilding and repairing of the Stations of the Cross trail at Mount Saint Francis. He also built two benches and put down gravel and did some landscaping along the trail.

Matthew had a total of 35 people helping him over 12 work days and raised about $300 from families at St. Anthony Parish. His grandfather also donated wood for the project. Planning all those elements and coordinating all the volunteers was more difficult than he thought it would be, he said. Now that he is finished he feels a great deal of satisfaction, especially since he was able to work on a project where people will pray.

“I was very glad I could do a project that coincided with my faith,” Matthew said. “I’m glad to help Mount Saint Francis because I go there a lot on campouts and for some retreats. It felt good to help them out.”

Coincidentally, another Providence Boys Scout once worked on the same project. Andrew Marking ’11, now head groundskeeper at Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa, replaced all the crosses on the trail for his Eagle Scout project.

Matthew said he has enjoyed being a Boy Scout, especially going on summer trips. His favorite was the survival skills trip to Minnesota.

“It definitely builds your character and life skills,” he said. “It teaches you things you wouldn’t get out of a typical youth program.”

Completing his Eagle Scout rank gives him a great sense of accomplishment and also allows him to look back to see how his past activities and achievements have led up to that final award.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I’m glad I have something to show for it,” Matthew said.

Matthew plans to attend Indiana University Bloomington and is considering several majors, including history and several foreign languages. Sam plans to attend the University of Louisville and major in mechanical engineering.

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Students take part in parish Food Fast

Several students recently participated in a Food Fast at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, organized by the parish’s youth ministry. The students spent a Saturday fasting from food while providing service to a local food pantry, the Falls of the Ohio, and St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. They also made blankets and burritos to donate to local people who are homeless.

Freshmen Jake Miller and Addison Mills said they were looking forward to the service event and are glad they took part. Jake said he had heard about how fun it was from his brother, Trey, a senior. And Addison said she knew it was going to be a fun day.

“One of my favorite things to do is help people,” Addison said.

The group started by making blankets and burritos to be distributed by the Burrito Riders to people in the area who are homeless. Addison said she liked the activity because she had never made blankets by tying two pieces of cloth together. Jake said he liked knowing he was helping others get their basic needs.

“It felt great to give people such necessary things for life that they rarely get: food and warmth,” Jake said.

The group then picked up trash at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, helped reorganize a food pantry, and cleaned up a few rooms at St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. Trey said they stayed so busy it was easy to forget they hadn’t eaten all day.

Both said they enjoy taking part in the service activities organized by their parish youth ministry and look forward to the next one.

“Every time I see a service project with my youth ministry I try my hardest to be able and make it there,” Addison said. “I’ve done a bunch of things like Summer Daze and working at the soup kitchen, and I always get such a positive experience out of it that makes my heart happy.”

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Medical mission trips a driving force for ’07 grad

Elizabeth Ansert ’07, in the middle/back row, has taken two medical mission trips as a podiatric medicine student and is planning two more.

Elizabeth Ansert ’07 is in her last semester at the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine in Miami Shores, Fla., but she already has experience providing medical care to those who need it most. She has participated in two medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and she is planning two upcoming trips, one to Guyana in South America and one to Uganda in Africa. To help others experience serving the most needy on medical mission trips, she was co-founder of an annual fundraiser that offers scholarships to college students wanting to go. Her efforts earned her the Student Medical Missionary of the Year award from Jose’s Hands, a nonprofit organization that introduces first-year medical school students to medical mission trips. 

Ansert went on her first medical mission trip as a med school freshman. Her mother, a nurse, had always talked about going on one but had never gone herself. So when Ansert got an email promoting an upcoming trip, she knew she had to go. She joined five of her classmates and helped provide general medical care to those in need in the Dominican Republic and found inspiration to return again, the second time as a team leader.

“It was interesting seeing the way people were living and the way they were so grateful for just basic medical care,” she said. “It was such a spiritual and emotional experience for me that I found this passion for, so it’s something I try to do once a year, and I also want other people to experience it.”

During her sophomore year at Barry, she and two classmates founded Party for a Cause, which raises money to cover some of the expenses for students’ medical mission trips. The first year, the event raised about $1,500. Last year, the event raised $5,000 and helped 13 students. This year, the event raised more than $6,000 and should help nearly 20 students.

Initially, the money received helped Barry students with medical mission trip expenses, but Ansert has been helping develop the Podiatry Medical Missions Association to promote the scholarship to podiatric medical students around the country.

For her upcoming medical mission trips, Ansert wanted to be part of a podiatric care team. So she found a way to help plan them by serving as an executive board member of the nonprofit organization Podiatry Overseas. She is helping to organize trips to Guyana and Uganda. Planning such trips includes overcoming several challenges, including gaining permission from the destination country and the U.S. government, obtaining travel visas, and getting the necessary medical supplies and equipment to the site. If the trip to Guyana is approved, the medical mission team primarily will provide podiatric surgery during its late April trip. For the trip to Uganda in June, Ansert will lead the medical mission’s podiatry clinic for one of the two weeks.

She also will help prepare those going on their first medical mission trip to help them understand the dual aspects of serving others in need and providing medical care. Training others is just as rewarding as participating in the trip itself, Ansert said. She discovered her love of teaching while serving as a teaching assistant as she pursued her master’s degree at IU. At Barry, she is a teaching assistant once again and said she likes to “see people learn the skills sets they need,” especially those preparing for medical mission trips.

Ansert said she is looking forward to the podiatry-focused trips and anticipates the group will provide treatment for everything from congenital deformities to deformities caused by past trauma. 

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “This is going to be the first time that there is a specific podiatric clinic, and a specific place for podiatry, so the one with surgery is even more exciting because we’re getting to make these huge, life-changing impacts on these patients that typically their country may or might not have the services or podiatry in that country, or there might not be the equipment or the funding to get the services they need.”

This final semester certainly is a busy one for Ansert, as she completes her schooling, plans two medical mission trips, and awaits the results of her residency match in mid-March. She has applied in various states, including Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts. She will complete three years of residency followed by a one- or two-year fellowship.

Ansert said it’s part of her personality to stay busy.

“I’m naturally a passionate person, so when I find something I like, I run with it,” she said “It’s something my parents instilled in me. They always emphasized working hard and doing something that you love. Between that and having a type A personality, if it’s something I like, I just go for it.”

That approach to life is how Ansert came to study podiatry. She started out as a biology major with a minor in chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington. In 2010, she entered the police academy and joined the IU Police Department, which prompted her to add the majors psychology and criminal justice. After earning her bachelor’s degree in three majors in 2012, she earned her master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

In 2014, she returned to New Albany but found few positions available in forensic psychology. She spent a year and a half as a psychological therapist but found it unrewarding. Ansert began to consider medical school and shadowed physicians in different specialties, including a distant relative who is a local podiatrist. When she saw his work, she was immediately intrigued.

“You’re getting to work with your hands, you’re getting to bounce around and do different things, so I thought this is what I might want to do,” she said.

She particularly liked podiatric medicine’s versatility. Unlike most medical specialties, podiatric medicine is not focused on a specific system of the body. It offers a range of care from cardiovascular and neurological to dermatologic and muscular care within the lower extremities of the body. The field also has its own specialties, and Ansert said she is most interested in wound care and forensic podiatry, a subspecialty she discovered her sophomore year. She became so fascinated with it that she started a forensic podiatry club.

Her interest in forensic podiatry no doubt springs from her former interest in police work, and ties all of her college degrees together. With several years of training still ahead, Ansert is leaving her options open. But whatever focus she ultimately chooses, she will continue to help others, whether it’s providing podiatric care in a U.S. medical practice or overseas on a medical mission trip.

“I got that from my family,” she said. “They taught me if you can help somebody, you should do it. My grandparents, parents, they taught me that you always help people whenever you can.”

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Mr. Mathews teaches more than language skills

Mr. Alan Mathews ’88 is one of six finalists for the 2019 St. Mother Theodora Excellence in Education Award from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In his 14th year as Spanish teacher at Providence, he also is the World Languages Department chairperson and the sponsor of the Spanish Club. Mr. Mathews said he is honored to receive the nomination and become a finalist, and he sees the award as validation that his job is a ministry.

“I’m trying to give back,” he said. “It’s good to have someone recognize that we see our job as a vocation.”

Dr. Mindy (Lankert) Ernstberger ’74 said she is grateful for the many ways Mr. Mathews has shared his gifts and talents with Providence, in the classroom and with his many other contributions at school and in the community.

“He is a gifted teacher, one who is known for high academic standards and achievement as well as positive student relationships,” Dr. Ernstberger said. “He is truly dedicated to Catholic education, and we are so fortunate to have Alan working on behalf of Catholic education in the Archdiocese.”

Mr. Mathews said that looking back upon his work history, he can see that he has always been teaching in some capacity although he’s only worked as a teacher the last 13 1/2 years. During his 12 years in the restaurant business, for example, he spent a portion of that time as a manager and trained much of the dining room staff, teaching them how to provide good service and deal with customers.

But he’s also been a lifelong learner, which is how he ended up going from various jobs in sales to become a high school Spanish teacher. His first college degree was a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in Spanish from Indiana University Southeast. Working in restaurants where a number of the employees were Hispanic gave him a further chance to practice speaking Spanish. He improved his language skills even more while working in Florida as an insurance salesman and meeting with customers, many of whom were Hispanic, in their homes.

In the early 2000s, he was back in Southern Indiana working as a car salesman and because of his fluency in Spanish was often asked to interpret interactions with Hispanic customers with limited or no English-speaking skills. One day a co-worker suggested he become a Spanish teacher because he was so skilled at speaking the language. That suggestion took root, and Mr. Mathews returned to college, this time to the University of Louisville, to earn his bachelor’s degree in Spanish and master of arts in teaching.

He was still working on his master’s when a position for a Spanish teacher here opened, something he sees as “divine intervention,” he said.

“What are the chances a position opened the year I was eligible,” Mr. Mathews said, adding that he completed that master’s degree in December 2006, a few months after he started teaching here.

Mr. Mathews is working on his second master’s degree, this one in Spanish, to maintain his eligibility to teach ACP Spanish. His coursework has greatly expanded his Spanish-speaking skills even more and given him more ideas for his classroom. It also will give him a chance to fulfill his dream of traveling to Spain thanks to a study abroad in Madrid this summer.

Going to Madrid will help him learn even more about Hispanic culture, something he always tries to work into his lesson plans. For example, he helps his students celebrate traditional Hispanic holidays, including Día de Muertos, a Spanish holiday centered around All Saints Day. Being able to incorporate different elements of cultural experiences, from holidays to clothing and rituals, feeds his interest in trivia and history – and keeps teaching Spanish interesting.

“It’s not just nouns and verbs,” he said. “You can talk about geography one day, and music and arts and crafts another day. It’s a whole world of culture.”

Mr. Mathews brings the opportunity to experience Hispanic culture outside the classroom. He is the faculty sponsor of the Spanish Club, one of the largest and most active extra-curricular organizations on campus. Over the years the Spanish Club has held various fundraisers – from bake sales to a 5K run – to raise money to donate to the Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana, a non-profit organization specializing in family-based immigration with programs in family literacy and preventive health.

The club also focuses on recycling services on campus. Under Mr. Mathews direction, the club worked to bring a permanent recycling dumpster to campus to collect recycled materials and to install recycling canisters in the cafeteria. Initially, recycling services had been a duty of the Recycling Club, initially sponsored by former Spanish teacher Ms. Emily Brown. When she left Providence, Mr. Mathews incorporated recycling into the Spanish Club’s duties because it teaches students to be “responsible stewards of our natural resources,” he said, especially since “so many parts of Latin America are in constant threat of abuse of their natural resources.”

In his free time, Mr. Mathews enjoys outdoor sports, including running. He is training for his fourth Kentucky Derby Festival minimarathon, which he will run this spring. He also is an amateur woodworker and has made two crosses of slate that hang at school, including one in his classroom and a larger one in the Robinson Auditorium lobby. He also has donated several crosses and wooden benches as prizes for the silent auction at the annual PHS Gala. He has shared his interest in woodworking with his students by encouraging the Spanish Club to make and sell ornaments at Christmas as a fundraiser for the Hispanic Connection.

Mr. Mathews and his wife, Jennifer, were married last summer and live in New Albany.

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Peace Corps offers ’15 grad chance to serve, grow

Robbie Gaines ’15 earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Bellarmine University in just three years and was on track to begin the doctoral physical therapy program there. As much as he loved the physical therapy program, he felt a call to enter the Peace Corps, a longtime interest of his. He applied, was accepted, and in July began his 15-month assignment in Botswana, Africa, working in health clinics throughout the country to educate and treat AIDS/HIV patients, primarily with children.

Here is a Q&A about his experiences:

Question: Why did you choose to enter the Peace Corps?
A: I joined the Peace Corps to learn about the world, to learn about myself, and to grow each day with the people around me through the challenges and success of day-to-day life.

Q: What do you enjoy about your work?
A: I thoroughly enjoy working to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana and working with my clinic staff because we are able to truly see how we can have an enormous impact on the lives of everyone in the village. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic, roughly one in four people are HIV positive, which in turn, means that everyone in the village is impacted either directly or indirectly. Because of this, my co-workers, counterparts, and I get to address health issues in a broader, holistic approach to address all the challenges of HIV. These challenges include the stigma of HIV and HIV testing, the ability to discuss health challenges among peers, as well as prevention and maintaining adherence to ARVs (the combination of medication used to lower the viral load of HIV patients).

Q: What do you find challenging? Rewarding?
A: One particularly challenging aspect of my service as a clinic-health specialist in a rural village in Botswana is that every project, or every event, has to include and be approved by most all community leaders, which means that no event or project can be created in an instant. It takes time and takes countless meetings with my counterparts and me to enact a certain change. However, it is exactly this [process] that I am eternally grateful for because it reminds me to slow down and remember the infinite importance of human connection and relationships. In Botswana culture, business as well as life, is much more relaxed and is focused more on human relationships rather than utilizing every second in the day to be efficient in paperwork and other duties.

Q: Your degree was in exercise science, and your work in Botswana is in health and clinics. Are you considering work in the medical field?
A: I am in fact considering work in the medical field. I really enjoy learning more and more about public health and how to ensure that all populations are adequately and lovingly cared for and have the same opportunity to succeed in life. Health is, quite obviously, closely linked with human behaviors, and I would like to see myself continuing to learn about how I can implement culturally appropriate health and youth development programs that give all people the opportunity to realize their potential despite obstacles they face that are out of their control.

Q: How did your schooling prepare you for this work?
A: My previous education at both Providence and Bellarmine University have undoubtedly helped shaped me into the person I am today. Both Providence and Bellarmine taught me that not all education exists in the classroom. The opportunity to partake in community service has helped me understand that in order to understand ourselves as students, we must first begin with what it means to be human — humans with inquisitive minds who are open to change and [with] warm hearts that are ready to guide us to our next adventure. I believe Providence and Bellarmine, through the constant help and guidance of teachers and staff, have fostered a nurturing environment that helps me to seek the next opportunity to grow and learn what it means to me to be human in my own life.

Q: Are you able to travel in your free time?
A: I am able to travel in my free time and weekends, and with this, I am so happy to be in the beautiful country of Botswana. The population of Botswana is around 2 million people, which seems like a decent amount. However, no matter where I travel, I always find someone who knows my name and knows people who talk about me from my own village. I am honestly not sure which I love more – the land and wildlife of the country or the neverending hospitality of the Batswana (the people of Botswana) across the country!

Q: What do you most enjoy about the area?
A:
My village is located in the Central District of Botswana, which is fairly flat and dry. However, every day, I go on a run through my village just before sunset. And each day I have countless children from the village join me and run with me. Seeing the smiles on their faces as we run together every day while enjoying a uniquely beautiful sunset is something that warms my heart each and every day.

There is nothing more satisfying in this world than feeling as if you are right where you are supposed to be in the world. For me, I feel this way when learning about the world from the world itself. Being a Peace Corps volunteer is a challenge that fulfills me, pushes me, and most importantly, assists me in my journey to become the best version of myself. If anyone has ever been interested in joining the Peace Corps, I would say to follow that desire and discover the beautiful places it will take you.

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Sophomore joins family in service to the homeless

Sophomore Eli Watson has come to appreciate the real gift of serving others by volunteering with his family to feed the homeless through Hip Hop Cares. Hip Hop Cares is a nonprofit organization in Louisville that sets up at First Street and Broadway under the overpass on Sunday afternoons to provide food, drinks, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and more to those in need.

Eli and his family began serving last fall after his mom saw an ad asking for volunteers, he said. She wanted Eli and his brother, Tre Watson ’16, to go so they could experience helping others in need. Ever since, they’ve returned every Sunday that his mom doesn’t have to work. 

Eli said he usually helps distribute food, and sometimes he has passed out bottled water or snack bags as people have waited in the long line. Sometimes he helps collect the trash left from people’s meals. Seeing the great need has had an impact on him.

“It keeps me humble and seeing a lot of people love and respect the homeless,” Eli said.

He also appreciates the positive attitude of those who are being helped.

“They don’t have a lot, but they still show a lot of love to the people helping out,” he said.

Sophomore Morgan Michels agreed. She served alongside the Watson family a few weeks ago and said it helped her be more appreciative of what she has.

“It felt good helping people because you know not everyone is as fortunate as you,” Morgan said.

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Schmidts spend fall break on medical mission trip

Helping others is just part of who Dr. Toni (Sartini) Schmidt ’78 is. Whether she is working with a patient in her Palmyra dental practice or in the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip, she simply wants the person to feel better. She has been working with patients in her office for nearly 30 years, and earlier this month shared her dental expertise on her fourth mission trip.

Schmidt started going on the trips when her oldest daughter, Peyton ’14, was a sophomore as a way to help her experience serving others in need in other countries. She later took her daughter Maria ’16, and her husband, Mike ’78, took their son, Manny ’18, a few years later. Schmidt also has gone on a medical mission trip on her own, and this was her first with her husband. They accompanied a group from Northside Christian Church in New Albany, which partnered with Casa por Christo, a group that built a home during the trip.

Mike, who helped in her dental practice in its early years, called on those dental skills once again and served as her dental assistant. Toni Schmidt was only able to perform tooth extractions, so she focused on dental hygiene education for most of the patients. The pair worked well together, even in the primitive conditions, with Mike having to kneel on the floor because the dental chair was so low to the ground.

Schmidt said despite the poverty of the area and the stark conditions, the pair felt richly blessed by the people they served. They prayed with every patient following their treatment, and were also blessed by that experience. In one instance, the medical team and some patients were in a circle praying when a young teenage boy asked to lead the prayer. When she asked for the translation, she learned that he had prayed for her, her helper, and their family at home.

“It just touched us so deeply,” she said.

Schmidt also was touched by the similarities that she shared with many of the mothers with whom she worked. She realized that many of the people often wait until they are in pain before seeking dental care. So she focused on education to encourage them to care for their teeth to prevent the need for pulling them. When she talked to the children and teenagers through a translator, she heard the same thing from their mothers that she does in Indiana – that they just won’t brush their teeth.

“We’re all the same,” Schmidt said.

Helping other organizations
Providing dental care in the Dominican Republic wasn’t the only service to others Schmidt provided recently. In September, she raised $15,000 in donations for Hosparus at its annual Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, a competition she almost had to cancel thanks to having broken her foot in May. After seven weeks using a scooter, she was healed in just enough time to begin dancing practice.

Schmidt said she was glad for the opportunity to help such an organization – and for an excuse to get back in shape after not being able to walk. Now she is back to running but regrets she will likely never run a marathon again since her foot can’t take the stress. An avid runner for years, she has run in the Kentucky Derby Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in her brother Gino Sartini ‘82’s name. Instead, she’ll focus on shorter races.

And now that she’s home again, she’ll focus on her family and her patients. She enjoys dentistry as much she has always since 1986, when she earned her dental degree while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. Her first few years as a dentist were in active duty at Ft. Knox, but she has led her own private practice since 1989.

“I love it,” she said of being a dentist. “I like the artistic part of it. I like that I can make someone feel more confident and have compassion not to hurt them. Then they become a patient who likes going to the dentist.”

As for future medical mission trips, Schmidt said she likely will go but doesn’t know when – until she feels God calling her to it. She has taken a trip about every two years with a team from Northside and Casa por Christo. She likes being part of that group because the mission is well organized, and she has always felt safe no matter in which country they serve. And she is happy for the chance to share the Gospel along with dental care education.

“Everyone has something (medical expertise) they can bring,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t about how many teeth I pulled; it was about serving and educating. I wanted to let them know we all serve the same God.”

Serving God is the main impetus for each of her trips.

“I feel like I’m being obedient to God’s word when he says to go out and spread the Gospel to the nations,” she said. “If I can be a part of that, that’s what I want to be.”

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Sophomore loves to help others

Sophomore Beth Wimsatt already has nearly four times the necessary amount of service hours to meet her graduation requirement. But she has no plans to stop helping others. She is a member of the New Albany Deanery Youth Ministry Action Team (YMAT) and is involved at her parish, St. Mary of the Knobs, from volunteering at the parish fish fry to babysitting during Bible study sessions. What she has most enjoyed, though, are the summer camps and mission trips she has been involved in.

The summer before her freshman year, she participated in the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries Faith in Action, a four-day mission trip that provides local service opportunities. This past summer, she traveled to Campton, Ky., on the Wolfe Pack Mission Trip to provide service to the Appalachian community. She also spent a week as a counselor for the first time at Camp Marian on the grounds of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception and run by the Sisters of St. Benedict.

Her Camp Marian service was a new opportunity to return to the camp that she had attended as a participant for the previous three summers. Beth first found out about the four-day camp for middle school girls from a family friend, and the two were signed up to attend when her friend couldn’t go at the last minute. Beth said she was initially afraid that she would not have any fun without her friend, but she soon met new friends that she continues to connect with today.

“You really form a bond with everybody there from canoeing, swimming, and walking around the property,” Beth said. “You just have fun.”

The girls camp out in tents near the lake and take part in a number of activities, including archery and crafts. After having so much fun the first summer, Beth returned for two more sessions. This past summer, she chose to return in the only way she could – as a leader. She said being a camp counselor added a new dimension to the experience.

“It’s almost more fun to lead it,” Beth said. “You get to get there a day earlier and have lunch and dinner with the Sisters and experience their lifestyle. (I also liked) just getting to know the other counselors and getting to help others have fun.”

Beth, second from left, rehearses a scene from Honk! during Musical Theatre Production class.

Beth said she plans to continue helping others, something she learned from her mom and older sister. She knows her service hours exceed what’s required, but she doesn’t serve to rack up hours.

“It’s not for the numbers, but it’s just counting what I already do,” she said. “It’s just something I love to do now.”

Of her current service activities, Beth is active in YMAT and said she enjoys planning activities for Deanery youth. Not only is it satisfying to create opportunities for middle schoolers to “build their connection to their faith,” but she also has made close friendships with other teens on the YMAT board.

Beth also is on the JV Girls Soccer team and is active in theatre. She will play the role of the Lady in Red in the children’s show, The Enchanted Bookshop, which will be performed Oct. 26-27 , and the role of JayBird in Honk!, a musical adaptation of The Ugly Duckling put on by the PHS Musical Theater Production Class Nov. 8-11.

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Students serve, learn and win over break

Summer may be a break from the routine of school, but it still can be a time of learning and helping others, as sophomore Beth Wimsatt, junior Regan Elias, and seniors Sydney Boggs and Tyler Upton found. Tyler and Beth took part in the Wolfe Pack Mission Trip with the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries, serving the poor in Campton, Ky. Regan attended the five-day Washington Youth Summit on the Environment at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., followed by a weekend at the nearby Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. And Tyler and Sydney took part in the Clark County 4-H Fair.

Beth and Tyler spent five days helping several families with home repairs, including painting, building a wheelchair ramp, and replacing old wood siding. Although many of the days were filled with hard work, the group did have some fun, such as hiking at Natural Bridge State Park and attending a local dance. The experience had a big impact on them both.

“Wolfe Pack this year was a life changing experience,” Tyler said. “In just five days, we spent in Wolfe County, Kentucky, we helped several different families in ways such as painting, building/woodworking skills, and much more. We also grew closer as a group through prayer, adoration, and adventure excursions each night. These adventure excursions included viewing the local, breathtaking scenery all the way to attending a ‘hoedown’ to learn the local dances. I enjoyed every moment of the trip and cannot wait to attend next year!”

Beth said she was particularly touched by the people they helped.

“This trip provides the opportunity to reach out to community members of the region’s poorest area,” she said. “I quickly grew to respect the dignity the people had even in their situation. I was able to work on a variety of projects like build a ramp for someone who is wheelchair-bound, replace and repaint rotted siding on an old house, put in the ceiling, walls, and doors in a new home, and several other things to help make the world a better and more beautiful place.

“I also cannot forget the many wonderful friends I have met and made just over a six-day camp. These are people that I will know for the rest of my life and always remember.”

Winning at the 4-H Fair

When Tyler returned from his mission trip, he was able to catch the end of the Clark County 4-H Fair and show three of his pigs that he raises on his grandfather’s farm. Of his three entries, his Berkshire pig won reserve champion, the equivalent of second place, and senior Dylan Seal’s pig won third place.

Tyler also entered three static projects, posters featuring aerospace, shooting sports, and his 4-H achievements. His aerospace entry won grand champion, champion, and an entry in the Indiana State Fair – and he’ll find out this weekend how well he did at the state level.

Senior Sydney Boggs displays her reserved champion and blue ribbons for her photography entry.

Tyler is involved in three clubs in 4-H, including a junior leaders club and one focusing on gun safety and shooting sports. He said he likes being in 4-H in part because of the chance to help others in the community, such as with its recent backpack project to help needy schoolchildren get the necessary school supplies.

Tyler’s sister, junior Amanda Upton, also competed in the 4-H Fair and won reserve champion on her achievement project. Her crossbred pig entry won its class but did not score in the overall breed category.

Sydney is president of her 4-H club and often enters the cake decorating contest but this year entered the photography category. She received a blue ribbon and reserved champion. 

She said she likes being in 4-H because of how close the members are.

 

Learning in the nation’s capitol

Regan also had a memorable experience. She was invited to attend the WYSE conference and said she was thrilled at the opportunity to attend study sessions on large animal care. She hopes to become a veterinarian and is intrigued by the prospect of helping large animals.

“Big animals you only see when they’re in pain and you can help them get better,” she said.

The conference included break-out sessions, including ones on large animal care, as well as several speakers and tours of the monuments in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol Building, several Smithsonian museums, and her favorite, the National Zoo.

Regan extended her trip with a three-day stay at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, where her group set up cameras to capture photos of animals in the conservation grounds and did several other activities.

She said she enjoyed getting a taste of dorm life and is now looking forward to college. And after spending a week there, she has added George Mason to her list of prospects.

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