At the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, MD, Kris Schmitz is busy volunteering with several different programs. Kris, who is now 16, has been volunteering since she was 10 years old. Her main interest is in helping children with behavioral problems who come from low-income families. She started a buddy program last summer at the Rosemary Hills Community Center Day Camp in Silver Spring, MD, wrote a handbook, volunteered in a local nursing home, and has mentored and tutored students through the SPARK! Program.
At 10 years of age, Kris started visiting some residents at a local nursing home in her area. She developed special relationships with many of them. Besides forming these relationships, whenever Kris saw a special need, she would instigate an activity or make sure that the need was met. Still 6 years later, Kris has contact with one of the residents at the home.
During her freshman year at the Academy of the Holy Cross, Kris had the desire to mentor and tutor a child from a local elementary school. She began calling around but was repeatedly denied because of her age. She remembered how hard it was for her during her earlier school years, so she persisted in finding someone to mentor. Through SPARK!, an agency in Kensington, Kris found a student who needed additional help with her studies.
Last summer, Kris was in the inaugural class of the Lazarus Leadership Fellows Program at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and had the assignment of creating a community service project. The Lazarus Leadership Foundation gives leadership training and a grant to develop a community service program to those applicants who are selected for extraordinary volunteer work. Kris was selected and developed a "buddy program" in a summer camp serving children from a low-income and ethnically diverse community. Kris trained six other high-school-aged volunteers to serve as "buddies" to the younger children who were attending the camp. In order to ensure proper training, Kris talked with guidance counselors and researched publications to find out the best methods and skills in working with children who have behavioral problems.
In order to aid those in the "buddy program" and for future reference, Kris designed a handbook, including information on program direction, volunteers, and specific techniques for working with children. This project was funded through the Lazarus Foundation.
Her most recent effort is Girls Rule!, a program that focuses on issues that 4th and 5th grade girls face in their daily lives. It encourages and nurtures these rising women by providing positive female role models, counseling and a supportive environment. The ultimate goal is to assist each young woman in realizing her worth and potential as well as to start her on the path to success.