Three students were recognized during their school honors night events with service awards from Luke’s Project 11, and an overall scholarship winner was announced at a dinner this week honoring all three students and their families.
High school seniors from each school were invited to turn in applications, and one winner was selected from each participating school. Ashley June Marsh, daughter of Randy and Laura Marsh; Chrisalyn Ridgeway, daughter of Robert and Brenda Ridgeway; and Rachel Thomas, daughter of Brian and Crystal Thomas each received a service award certificate and gift card. The three students recently graduated from, respectively, Bulloch Academy, Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School.
Based on applications the students submitted detailing their service contributions to the community and beyond, one overall winner was chosen for a $2,000 scholarship. Ridgeway received the scholarship.
Luke’s Project 11 (LP11), a local nonprofit was created in honor of Luke Anderson, son of longtime Statesboro residents Greg and Julie Anderson. Luke died tragically in a single-vehicle accident on Nov. 14, 2010, just days before his 20th birthday. From road markings, law enforcement examiners determined that Luke most likely suffered a seizure just before the crash.
Shortly after establishing the nonprofit with the purpose of encouraging young people to find ways to leave a positive impact on their community by serving, Julie Anderson explained, “It took a long time to get help to him [after the wreck] and even though he was an organ donor, it had been too long and nothing could be done. I just had to find a positive way for his life to give back to Statesboro and Bulloch County. This is our way of giving his heart to the whole community.”
All three of the students exemplified the type of servant’s heart that his parents, friends and others saw in Luke Anderson. Their applications, along with others who submitted applications, represented a host of volunteer hours spent with their churches, schools, leadership organizations and on their own inclination.
“It’s always been a passion of mine to give back. I love volunteering,” said Ridgeway.
Ridgeway put in many hours at Fostering Bulloch. So much so that she fulfilled her Beta Club service credits by her junior year of high school, but continued volunteering throughout her senior year, just because she enjoyed the work and giving back. She also volunteered at East Georgia Nephrology Inc. and tutored SEB middle school students in reading and assisted them with various middle school projects.
Ridgeway’s heart for serving others extends beyond her local community.
“My grandfather fought in the Vietnam War. He lost his hearing and has other war-related illnesses. When he was at Tuskegee VA hospital and now in Augusta, I visit him a couple of times a month. I read to him and spend time with him.
“He has lots of new roommates when I go, so I read to them, too. Sometimes my family stays the whole day, and my sister, Tyla, and I often help serve ice cream and cupcakes for birthday celebrations, especially for those that don’t have families that come in,” she said.
Ridgeway plans to attend Mercer University in the fall and major in Biology, minor in Spanish. She hopes to complete the physician's assistant program. Her end-goal is to become a pediatrician and open her own practice in underserved areas of the country and then maybe work overseas as well.
Marsh, who plans to attend Georgia Tech in the fall and ultimately work in the medical field, said one of her favorite serving events takes place each year through her church, First United Methodist Church, and is a missions weekend.
“The middle school and high school students go around and help in the community, like Fostering Bulloch, Habitat for Humanity and others, and we do things for others that maybe aren’t the most glamorous jobs," she said. “It feels great because not only are you with your friends, but you’re teaching younger kids to love serving, and you hope that will continue."
Marsh says that by helping out those organizations with some of their needs, "it takes the strain off people who dedicate their lives to this. It feels good to do this to help, with no guilt, no judging, not having an ulterior motive or doing it for selfish reasons. It’s a great feeling to serve.”
Thomas plans to attend Davidson College and major in economics. Thomas said that she’d learned while volunteering that it is mutually beneficial.
“It builds you as a person, you grow while serving others. They’re very appreciative, and you forge relationships you might not have ever formed,” she said.
The three service award recipients enjoyed an opportunity to share their dreams and plans for the days ahead and talked about a future that included serving others. The girls agreed that others have shared a desire to get involved in serving but often don’t know where to look for community project ideas.
E-mail project suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.lukesproject11.org to find out how to contact the organization with feedback.