St. Helens teen passionate about giving back, female education
It's Tuesday morning during spring break. While many high schoolers are enjoying down time, Abigail Marx, a St. Helens High School senior, diligently works through scholarship applications at a local coffee shop.
Seventeen-year-old Abby, as she prefers, never seems to slow down.
Abby's mother, DeeAnn Herschbach-Marx, jokes she sometimes has a hard time keeping track of her daughter.
"She's always busy," DeeAnn says.
Already this morning, Abby has delivered a presentation at a St. Helens Kiwanis Club meeting, and she has afternoon plans to prepare for an upcoming robotics team competition.
Abby serves in numerous school leadership roles, has been the high school marching band drum major for two years, plays multiple musical instruments, is the robotics team's business lead and safety captain, and competes in track and field events.
But while much of Abby's schedule is jam-packed, there is always time for her community service.
"I think the service is important to me because I've come from a place in life where I had to work really hard for what I've had, and it's been difficult. Now that I'm out of that a little more, I want to give back to people who are struggling, like I used to be," Abby says.
Her mom says she is proud of her daughter, not only for her focus and determination, but willingness to give back.
"I'm very proud of her, and especially since most of her activities are an effort to help others," DeeAnn says. "She cares about her community, and even the world, you know?"
As her school's Key Club president, Abby oversees as many as 30 active members who regularly raise funds for UNICEF, Doernbecher Children's Hospital and the nonprofit Thirst Project, the latter promoting access to clean drinking water in Africa.
During her freshman year, the Key Club only had four members. Through her leadership, and with the help of other students, the program has flourished. It's one of her proudest accomplishments.
Alan King, the Key Club's adviser and a member of the St. Helens Kiwanis Club, says he's watched Abby lead the club in more positive direction.
"She's very determined and perseveres," King says.
Through Key Club, Abby's discovered a deep passion for the Thirst Project. She connected with the program on a personal level when she realized girls were disproportionately affected by a lack of clean water.
Girls and women often are the ones who must walk miles a day to find clean water, which severely limits their educational opportunities, she explains.
"It's also really important to me, with things like the Thirst Project. … Yes, we're getting them clean water, but we're allowing for women to get education," Abby says.
Abby's passion for girls to pursue educational opportunities and personal interests extends to her involvement with robotics. She and other girls have been "unapologetic" about being on the team, and encourage female peers also to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math programs, or STEM.
"I really enjoy it because I get to be an advocate for women in STEM in the school and community," Abby says of being in robotics. "Sometimes girls need that extra push to get into a club that's STEM and male-dominated. That's why we really work hard to get more girls in it."
When Abby is not involved in school activities she also takes part in 4-H, where she has worked with horses and dogs.
When asked if she could only choose one activity, however, Abby didn't hesitate — band. Band provides a sense of family and a safe space for her to recharge so she can give back.
"It's hard to help people when you're struggling yourself, so band has given me a place to feel like I'm thriving so I can help others who are just surviving," she says.
Band Director Noelle Freshner speaks highly of Abby's dedication, ability to lead others and to handle it all with grace.
"It's rare to find a student who's involved in so many things and is doing them all well," Freshner says. "No matter what she touches, it's amazing."
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