Seventy-one Mercer Island High School students submitted over 20,000 community service hours over the 2017-2018 school year. Seniors Colin Gersch and Alison Dickstein received community service awards for their outstanding volunteer work.
The MIHS Community Service Awards program is a partnership between the MIHS Counseling department and the PTSA.
The chair for the program, Jackie Brown, said he’s had the privilege of seeing how MIHS students serve the community and beyond.
“It is inspiring to see how much these young people give back,” he said.
Gersch led a cultural immersion in Guatemala that included building a school for Global Visionaries. He was also involved with various volunteer opportunities, including VOICE, Safe Rides and the Healthy Youth Initiative.
“These organizations have taught me so much about selflessness what it means to give back to the community that you are surrounded by,” Gersch said.
For the past seven years, Dickstein volunteered with the Friendship Circle, an organization that provides special needs children with a variety of activities to nurture inclusion and friendship. She also worked at the University of Washington’s Center for Autism for the past two-and-a-half years.
Gersch and Dickstein find volunteering to be incredibly rewarding. When Gersch volunteered with VOICE at the Atlantic Street Center, he played with kids at recess and taught them how to read.
“This experience has made me want to return year after year to further work with Atlantic Street Center,” he said.
Dickstein said it was so rewarding to see her classmates’ passion for community service.
“I was constantly inspired by the many MIHS students who devote their time and talents to bettering our community,” she said.
Volunteering and being a high school student posed challenges for the two students. For Dickstein, she said balancing her time among schoolwork, community service, varsity athletics and a job was especially challenging.
“While difficult, learning to balance commitments is a skill I will use for the rest of my life,” she said.
Gersch said one of the biggest challenges he faced was serving people suffering from a lack of basic necessities.
“Serving individuals who are struggling with homelessness in Seattle [and] seeing these individuals struggle every day is incredibly hard to see especially when juxtaposed with the knowledge that I come from a community where this is not a even a thought in the minds of some residents,” he said.
Gersch and Dickstein advise students to volunteer their time to something bigger than themselves.
“Find something that makes you feel bigger and better than yourself, and continue to chase that feeling with everything that you do, because the world is much much bigger than Mercer Island,” Gersch said.