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Students an inspiration as track meet volunteers PDF E-mail

A volunteer, by definition, is someone who offers to enter into service of his or her own free will.

We, as a society, are able to function better because of  volunteers, day in and day out. These are our volunteer firefighters, our volunteers at hospitals, at the local movie theater and with many various children’s programs and activities. The list goes on.

Then there are youth volunteers, kids helping kids if you will, which is a whole different topic. Kids learning and growing as they help others, as they become young adults.

That very thing exists at Aurora High School, older students volunteering their time and efforts at middle school track meets, expecting nothing yet getting something substantial back in return.

Aurora Activities Director Tim Huls said this is the fifth year the school has depended on student volunteers to help run these meets.

“One of our goals as teachers and coaches is to help develop leadership skills in our students,” he pointed out. “When students volunteer their time, it gives them a sense of accomplishment while building leadership skills. Also, when athletes actually run an event that they are competing in (as varsity track athletes), it gives them a better understanding of the details that go into their activity that could help them prepare as they compete.”

Junior Shawn McDonald is one of this year’s volunteers. He is involved in sports and FBLA and has helped three times at meets with the shot put, either measuring distances or leading the event. He said he volunteers not only at track meets but at other school activities, church and 4-H, because he enjoys it.

“After everything I do, it just really makes me feel good about myself,” he noted. “And it really makes me feel great when I can make a difference in someone’s life. I think most of the competitors like having high school students help out because they feel more comfortable and are not as intimidated to talk to you. And for parents and coaches, I think they are more impressed with a lot of high school students helping out because it shows how great our student body is.”

Emily Braun is a senior who is involved in sports along with at least six other school activities. She’s helped at track meets twice this spring, in charge of measuring the girls’ long jump and helping with the boys’ triple jump.

“I volunteer for the interaction with the kids,” Emily said. “When I was in middle school, I always thought it was so cool when the high schoolers came and helped out. It has helped me appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work people do to make events like this possible. Being a track athlete myself, I feel like it’s a good way to give back. I haven’t had any trouble. It makes the experience more fun.”

Emily also volunteers at East Park Villa, cleaning up parks, and at blood drives.

“Nothing compares to the feeling after volunteering. It’s humbling to know you’re making a positive impact on people and the community.”

Huls said things usually go smoothly during meets but that there are times when some of the kids forget to show up, making him a little nervous. He also said because it’s still a competition, that “things” do pop up occasionally, as was the case this spring when one of his volunteers was running the long jump event and tried to help a young athlete from an opposing school.

“Out of the kindness of his heart,” Huls said, “he offered some advice to the young athlete, only to be scolded by the athlete’s coach stating,  ‘Don’t talk to our athletes.’ Probably not funny at the time, but it’s something that the high school volunteer will laugh about later.”

Ashtyne Nachtigal, a junior who plays volleyball and basketball along with being involved in four other school activities, has helped with the track meets six or seven times, including the long jump, raking pits, entering times in the press box, assigning ribbons to teams along with announcing events and scores.

“I really enjoy getting to see the younger kids compete because I was in their shoes not too long ago, and I really enjoyed that experience. I also love giving back to the community and school, knowing that my volunteering and help is appreciated by lots of people. It just makes the time I give well worth it.”

She said she also volunteers at her church with kids and summer camps, and was a SOAR leader for three years. She does lots of community service at Hamilton Manor, East Park Villa, the food pantry and at other businesses and communities around Aurora.

Huls added that there are times when student volunteers are needed at other middle school events, such as calling lines at volleyball matches or running the scoreboards.

“The list is long,” he said about the number of student volunteers. “Even though we have an official helper list, some high school and middle school students will show up and assist at events without being asked, proving the positive guidance they are receiving from their parents, teachers and coaches.

“Ninety percent of running a successful track meet, or any other activity, is preparation and planning. Then the plan is to monitor the event as it unfolds. I am very fortunate to have a great assistant in Jessica Gallagher, and we are very lucky to have amazing students who possess the leadership skills, talent and the willingness to volunteer their time to make these events successful.”

The bottom line? It’s impressive how Aurora’s 4R teaching system isn’t limited to just classroom walls.

And it’s impressive how some students are running with it.

DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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