Like many students interested in learning how to be civically engaged, Ella Scharosch started volunteering in her community a few years ago during her school leadership class.
That work flipped a switch for Ella, who lives in Cornelius and is a rising sophomore at Glencoe High School.
"I started volunteering in the summer, and I started enjoying working," Ella says. "I like working on projects. It's just fun for me, and it's amazing to think that I'm helping people."
She has been volunteering at the Cornelius Public Library for two years now, checking books in and out, reshelving them, labeling new books, and filling in wherever staff needed her.
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the library. But Ella's desire to help has persisted.
She recognized the library's closure would have a significant impact on kids' reading development.
Hoping to help, Ella recently spent a day packing bags of reading materials for kids participating in the library's summer reading program. She says she plans to pick up more shifts to help the program.
Ella says watching her community rally by donating and distributing food to help people in need during the pandemic has only increased her motivation to be involved. She hopes people will continue to do so long after cases of COVID-19 have subsided.
"There are so many people doing so many great things right now," Ella says. "There's no reason to stop."
Ella's volunteering hasn't stopped at the library. Last year, she became a member of the Cornelius Youth Advisory Council, composed of students across the community with different backgrounds. The group organizes community events such as public cleanup days and serves as a bridge between local youth and the Cornelius City Council.
Not quite old enough to find an official paid job, Ella has been exercising entrepreneurial skills by working as a dog walker for her neighbors. She plans to save the money she makes to use when she goes to college.
Leaders in Ella's church also have been calling on her for years to help care for kids at the church's nursery, and during events and services, she says.
"They're really adorable and funny. I have a really fun time doing it," Ella says.
She has thought about pursuing a career as a teacher, but she doesn't think it's the right fit for her.
Ella enjoys her math and English classes in school, but recently, she has discovered she's particularly passionate about theater. She performed for the first time this past year, mostly because her older sister encouraged her to, and she immediately loved it.
"It's so fun, and the community is really nice," Ella says.
She wasn't expecting to be cast in an important role in Glencoe's production of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" because she had never been in a production before. Still, she was excited when she found out she would play an Oompa Loompa.
"I was surprised I got a dancer role," Ella says. "I told my sister, and she said, 'That's a really good role — a lot of people don't get dancer until their junior or senior year.'"
Ella says her three siblings have played a big role in her life. Her little sister and her older brother both have Down syndrome.
"It puts you in this mindset that you can help anyone that needs help," she says.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.