When West Linn High School senior Anthony Varga looks into his future, he's surrounded by kids.
The children aren't his own, but they might as well be. In this dream scenario, Anthony's career has afforded him the resources to open up an adoptive or foster care home for children in need.
"I'm not talking about three, four, five kids — I'm talking about 12 or 15," Anthony says. "That's where I want to be. I want to have a home full of kids who are in the foster system who I could essentially raise up — to love and care about them, because previously they hadn't been."
This clear-eyed vision fits perfectly with the way Anthony — The West Linn Tidings 2018 Amazing Kid — has lived his entire life. From the halls of West Linn High School to youth camps, football practices, teen advisory board meetings, and Link Crew outreach efforts, Anthony is known by many in the community as a warm and genuinely compassionate person who will talk to anyone.
"When they asked if there were any kids you can think of who fit this mold (as an Amazing Kid), Varga popped right into my head," WLHS School Resource Officer Jeff Halverson says. "He's just a very caring young man."
It's been about a year since the two met, and they struck up a friendship when Anthony started stopping by Halverson's office. Often it was just to chat, but Halverson says Anthony has a keen eye for students who might be in need of support.
"He'd talk to some kid and he'd come back and say, 'This guy or gal, I'm a bit worried about them. I don't know if they're getting enough to eat at home. Or, 'I saw them at a party and I was kind of concerned,'" Halverson says. "These weren't like his best friends — these were just other students he cared about. He wanted to make sure they were OK."
Throughout his life, Anthony has jumped at every opportunity to reach his peers through these simple but often crucial steps. He's part of the high school's teen advisory board, which works to spread awareness of issues like drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental health. With Link Crew, he helped guide freshman through the rough waters of high school orientation, and he continues to do similar outreach work through his local Young Life organization.
Anthony says his worldview was shaped in part by attending these very programs when he was younger.
"Growing up within my church and within Young Life, I had some really awesome leaders who were just some random high school guys," Anthony says. "They'd always care about me, they'd always be there for me in a time of need. That really made me want to think, 'OK, I want to do this for some other kids one day.'"
For Anthony, that ethos of compassion often means simply approaching a student at school who looks to be in need.
"Sometimes you saying hello to that one kid in class who's always in the back corner, having a conversation with them and actually caring about them — not just making it seem like you care about them — can make a difference tenfold of what is ever going to happen to them in high school," Anthony says.
With mental health and safety at high schools a hot topic of national conversation in recent months, Halverson says Anthony's approach is something that should be emulated.
"It's very important, and I think more people could be like Anthony — caring about their fellow humans," Halverson says. "He's just a guy who wants everybody to be well and be happy and he's willing to put himself on the line to go and talk to those people."
After Anthony graduates this spring, he'll bring his unique perspective to the U.S. Marine Corps, where he enlisted to become an intelligence specialist. For Anthony, it's the ideal next step in a life dedicated to service.
"I feel like sometimes within certain communities, the idea of 'It's all about me,' is propelled up and higher than anything else," he says. "Some people may find fulfillment through it. But a life meant for helping others is a life I find attractive."
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