Rachel Gallagher began volunteering as a sophomore to help children with special needs after reading an inspiring article about a Mercer Island organization called Friendship Circle of Washington. Realizing the stigma surrounding the special needs students at MIHS, she decided to create “Lunch Buddies” to ensure that these students have companions to eat with at lunch. Her knowledge and passion deepened after she spent a summer at Seattle Children’s Hospital researching autism and assisting patients and their families. Her plans for the future include Carleton College and then medical school where she hopes to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by autism. In her own words, “The marginalizing impact of autism makes it my goal to return to Seattle Children’s someday as a psychiatrist. As I take the next steps towards this dream…I will emulate Stanley Ann by dedicating myself to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by autism.”
Ellena Jones has developed an independence and self-advocacy discipline that has guided her through her life. She has held numerous positions of responsibility in her volunteering activities with Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, Natural Helpers, and Seattle Music Partners in addition to an excellent academic record. According to her high school guidance counselor, Ellena epitomizes perseverance and strength in the midst of adversity. She has proven to be a natural leader in her musical pursuits as well, acting as section leader and playing saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble. Ellena plans to major in social work in college. “I want to empower others in the way I have had to motivate myself to overcome poverty, foster care and homelessness. I hope to be that mother figure for others, especially children, living in difficult situations.”
Our guest speakers this year were “Girl Rising” senior producer Hilary Sparrow of Vulcan Productions and 2001 Mercer Island Alum Sarah Grausz.
Ms Sparrow is also Director of Production on projects for the Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, Smithsonian Channel, and the.National Geographic Channel where she managed productions in nearly every corner of the globe including Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Sarah Grausz has built a career in international development, designing and implementing programs to improve bi-lateral relations between the U.S. and developing countries She offered three valuable tips for graduating seniors:”…First I want to talk about role models. Of the applicants here today, how many of you have a role model? For President Obama, his mother and grandmother were his role models, and their worldliness and empathy broadened his horizons and shaped his philosophy.