“Having a strong community is what everyone wants. It benefits everyone.”
That’s what Ashtin Holman, sophomore at Winnetonka High School, said as she went about her volunteer work at Shadow Buddies, an organization that gives custom dolls to children with severe illnesses.
Holman was one of a few dozen members of Awesome Ambitions who were spending their morning volunteering at organizations across the city, something they do regularly.
Awesome Ambitions is a not-for-profit mentoring and college-readiness program open to all girls across the Metro in grades 8 through 12. The foundation of the program is volunteering. Professional women volunteer their time to work side-by-side with the students, mentoring them in their efforts to define their own success, to plan how to achieve that success and believe that they are capable of accomplishing and deserving of enjoying success.
In the 20 years since 41 Action News Anchor Cynthia Newsome and retired Kansas City Star columnist Angela Curry founded Awesome Ambitions, approximately 3,000 students have been impacted by the program.
While the program teaches more than just volunteering — with two Saturday programs a month offering opportunities to explore employment and career options as well as learn about financial management, fitness, nutrition, leadership development and other life skills — talking to any of the “Awesome” girls will reveal a passion for service to others.
Newsome explains, “I believe a good leader is an amazing servant. We learn how to lead by learning how to serve.”
Awesome Ambitions offers regular opportunities to serve.
Aris Holman, sophomore at Winnetonka High School, noted when you give back, you are giving to yourself. She and her sister Ashtin make a regular point to serve through Awesome Ambitions and Kiwanis Club.
“It feels good to help others,” she said. “Programs like Ambitions help you get out and do things, not just talk about it.”
Parent volunteer Lisa Williams, of Grandview, Missouri, likes the way Awesome Ambitions supports their family’s initiative to be involved in the community.
“It builds a lot of character,” Williams said. “It helps them to see there is a greater purpose beyond themselves. They have awesome volunteers who are visible and active. The girls see a complete stranger is investing in their future and their lives.”
Lawanda Miller recently moved to Kansas City and has been volunteering as a mentor for a few months. But from day one she said she realized leaders would be born from the program.
“I have always believed that service to your fellow man is the best thing you can do,” Miller said.
Miller noted she has a favorite quote that guides her volunteering and that she shares with the students she mentors.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” — Barack Obama.
Above: Ashtin Holman, right, and Aris Holman, left, help prepare Shadow Buddies for the special children who will receive them.