Westminster students awarded spots in 20 under 20 for service

Many Westminster students find opportunities in and outside the community as a way of giving back through philanthropy and volunteer work. There are also a handful of Upper School students who take their work to a higher level by volunteering hundreds of hours, starting charities, and donating their free time to causes around world. This year two Westminster students received the award, senior Cristina Dalton and junior Julie Street.

As a way to show the dedication of these students, Atlanta InTown magazine honors 20 students under the age of 20. Over the past two years, four Westminster Upper School students have received this recognition: Dalton, Street, sophomore Mackenzi Stewart, and alumnus Jamie Pastan.

“20 under 20 is an award given to 20 students under 20 years old in a community who have made a significant impact regarding service and their contribution to the community,” said Dalton.

Students receive the opportunity to win this award by being nominated by someone who has noted the excellence in their service.

“There is a committee or a group of people who review all the nominations,” said Dalton. “And then they pick the 20 people for the award.”

Members of the public, teachers, parents, and even other students can submit nominations for this award.

“My mom nominated me,” said Street. “She didn’t tell me about the award or about having nominated me until I’d been chosen as one of the 20 recipients in 2016.”

The Westminster students invested in outlets to help them achieve their goals of service work to help their communities. Some were also involved in leadership roles in these charity outlets. Both award winners from Westminster for this year worked with the National Charity League (NCL), a service outlet for mothers and daughters, to have the opportunity to volunteer so many hours.

“I’ve done a lot with National Charity League and I’ve been the class president for two years. I was the corresponding secretary one year, and the VP of communications for another year,” said Dalton. “So I have had a big involvement with NCL.”

Both Dalton and Street also worked with Operation Gratitude, a project which sends over 150,000 care packages to the military each year.

“What I do is not only weave paracord bracelets and write notes,” said Street, “but provide the materials already ready to be woven into bracelets to my fellow members of NCL.”

Along with Operation Gratitude, Street is able to volunteer with dozens of different philanthropies across Atlanta with the help of the NCL.

“I have always enjoyed volunteering, but it is very difficult to find places to volunteer in Atlanta without going through a school, church, or organization,” said Street. “This is why my mom and I joined the mothers and daughters’ organization.”

Dalton also spends time outside of Operation Gratitude and NCL philanthropies to provide service to others while learning more about her passions. The service work gives her an insight into a real world point of view.

“I have had a heavy involvement in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,” said Dalton. “I love that through the NCL I have been able to connect my passion for service with my interest with healthcare.”

Dalton pursued her passion with CHOA and became involved in an organization to help raise money for different service projects around Atlanta, like the Children’s Christmas parade.

“I’m involved in girlFriends, which is an organization of high school girls that fundraise and volunteer for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and I’ve been on the board of that,” said Dalton.

Both Dalton and Street completed over 100 hours of volunteer work in one year, and the two achieved the Presidential Award, given by NCL, for this service.

“This year I also qualified for the Congressional Gold Medal Award,” said Dalton. “That is an award given by Congress when you get a certain amount of hours in the four pillars of physical fitness, expedition, personal development, and community service.”

These award winners work exceptionally hard during the year to achieve such high recognition. Looking ahead, the Westminster community hopes to see their younger students fill the shoes of previous winners and donate their time to volunteer work. Both Dalton and Street gave helpful advice for people to stay committed on their track for this award.

“Find what you’re really interested in and what you like to do,” said Dalton. “At the end of the day you can’t stay passionate about something if you aren’t even interested in it.”

Both students felt that passion and commitment was the key to succeeding with their volunteering interests. Rather than focusing on the award, they focus on the difference they are making.

“When you find a cause you truly care about, you can put your entire heart into it. It’s not just about getting large numbers of hours – in fact, I would advise against having that mindset at all,” said Street. “If it’s for something you care about and something you are doing simply because you want to, pursue it with everything you’ve got and make a difference in your community.”