Student overcomes fears to help others

Published 10:40 pm Friday, November 5, 2010

Kenya Smith is learning the value and the benefit of overcoming her own fears to help others.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories about students in a new service-learning class at Lakeland High School.

It’s no easy task to walk up to a stranger and ask for favor or to take initiative to call around and find out about something.

When you’re shy, the thought can be paralyzing.

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It was certainly not a welcome thought to Kenya Smith, who describes herself as shy.

But lately, Kenya has been busy making phone calls and handing out flyers.

Kenya is overcoming her own fears in her efforts to help collect business clothes for battered women at the Genieve Shelter.

“I was nervous when I had to make my first phone call [to the Genieve Shelter] to find out how I could help,” Kenya said. “But, I did it because when you have something in your mind, you need to just do it and not let anything stop you.”

Her collection is part of her project for her “service-learning” class,” a pilot program at Lakeland High School this year.

Students in the class must complete 70 hours of active volunteer work throughout the year and are engaged in several community service projects throughout the year. For each project, students must research their topic, connect it to Standards of Learning requirements, give presentations to their classmates about their work and record everything they do in a binder.

Before Kenya started the class, she had never volunteered for anything before, she said. But when her guidance counselor told her about the class, she knew she wanted to get involved.

“I’d never done anything like that before, and I wanted to do something for the community and get out into the community,” Kenya said.

She decided right away that she wanted to help battered women.

“You see on television and hear about women being abused, and I just wanted to do something to help them,” Kenya said.

After doing her research and finding a Suffolk shelter, Kenya contacted the shelter to find out where they most needed help.

She is now beginning an effort to collect suits, dresses, blouses, slacks and shoes to donate to the shelter.

“When women leave a home they’re being abused in, they just pick up and leave and many times don’t take anything with them,” Kenya said. “They need nice clothes to go out and get a job and start a new life. Everyone should have the opportunity to start a new life.”

As part of the class, she also has to do research on her subject area and has had her eyes opened to an unknown world.

“Every 15 seconds a woman is abused,” Kenya said. “That’s really scary. And it’s not just mean guys. It can be guys who seem good and have jobs.”

While it hasn’t been easy for Kenya to overcome her shyness to help others, it’s something she hopes to do more often — and something she hopes others will learn.

“Younger kids will follow in the footsteps of older kids,” Kenya said. “We should set an example for them. When you volunteer, it doesn’t just help other people. It helps you, too.”

To find out how to donate to Kenya’s professional clothing drive for the Genieve Shelter, contact the class teacher, Cathy Williams, at Lakeland High School at 925-5790.