Service is the name of siblings’ game

By | February 3, 2009

Ryan Powley, 18, a senior at Xavier, and his sister Leah, 15, a sophomore, have already surpassed the required number of service hours for graduation and are still going strong. Over the course of seven semesters, Ryan has completed 465 hours of service and in three semesters Leah has finished 95 hours.

An Eagle Scout, volunteering has been a part of Ryan’s life since he joined Scouts. “An element of service was definitely incorporated into that. We always did food drives or picking up trash, simple things like that. As I’ve grown through Scouting and through school I’ve done more service,” he noted.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Ryan and Leah Powley

Parish: St. Gabriel the Archangel, Neenah

Age: Ryan, 18; Leah, 15

Favorite saint: Ryan, Christopher; Leah, Anthony (“The one you pray to when you lose things.”)

Words to live by: Ryan, “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil…” (Psalm 23:4) Leah, “Live life to the fullest and take the chances you get.”

The organizations that have benefited from Ryan’s service while in high school include Best Friends of Neenah/Menasha, Xavier theater, The Heritage, Meals on Wheels, Brewster Village, Touchmark, St. Gabriel Parish, Habitat Restore, Xavier Food Fair, Mackville Haunted House, Crop Walk and Boy Scouts.

“I wouldn’t really even think about the required number of hours when I did service,” said Ryan. “I would just go and do it because it was there, I had some free time, and it was something nice to do. I really don’t like to do the same thing for too long. I like to expand and try new things.”

Ryan’s favorite service project was working at Camp Onaway outings for Best Friends of Neenah/Menasha. “A few friends and I were waterfront instructors for that camp for a couple of days,” he said. “We tried to teach the friends how to water ski, kind of giving these kids a chance to learn something that they hadn’t ever tried before. I love waterskiing … so it was cool to be able to pass along some of my expertise to kids who deserve a chance to do that.”

Other school activities for Ryan include running on Xavier’s varsity cross-country team, which made it to state last fall, acting as president of the Xavier Environmental Challenge Team, and playing trumpet in band and jazz band. He plans to attend college this fall, with St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., as his first choice. “I’m probably going to do something with English and environmental policy or environmental studies or business.”

The best part of volunteering for Ryan is the reaction he gets from the people he helps. “That makes me feel good about what I’m doing. All that’s really important to me is just trying to change the world one person at a time.”

Leah’s service work began at their parish, St. Gabriel in Neenah, when she was in middle school. Since high school she has logged hours helping with Xavier theater, Meals on Wheels, Xavier Food Fair, Touchmark, St. Joseph Middle School, The Hub, and Best Friends of Neenah/Menasha, among other things.

Choosing projects to work on is easy enough. “My friends and I used to pick the area that we needed the most hours in, such as nursing homes, and then we would go to Touchmark,” said Leah. From volunteering at Touchmark she realized she enjoyed working with the elderly. “It makes me want to spend more time volunteering and doing service at places like Touchmark where I can help the elderly.”

For her junior service project at Xavier this year, Leah intends to follow in her brother’s footsteps and work at Habitat Restore. “You sell things for Habitat for Humanity. It sounds really interesting.”

Her favorite volunteer activities so far have been at her parish. “One thing I found really fun was working at St. Gabriel’s St. Nick Social. I get to run the games for the kids,” said Leah. “The fish fries are really fun too, because I do them with my friends.” She eventually hopes to do more service to benefit the environment and promote recycling.

When not volunteering, Leah can be found playing varsity tennis for Xavier, running track or participating in Key Club activities. She intends to join the environmental club soon as well.

“I like doing service for the feeling of knowing that I’m doing something that’s helping other people,” concluded Leah. “I’ll keep doing service when I get the chance to do so. It’s something I really enjoy so I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”

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