You don’t have to look too far to find good models in Austin.
That’s what a pair of juniors from Pacelli High School proved this spring and their efforts are attracting attention.
Lilly Paul held a pair of fundraisers in April in an effort to support women and girls in Austin. Through the Jean For Jesus fundraiser hosted by Pacelli, Paul raised $452.83 on both fundraisers and collected an assortment of baby clothes and supplies. In turn, the money and items will be donated to Rachel’s Hope in Austin.
“It’s important to help your community,” said Paul. “Your community is what you really have. They support you the most.
At the same time, his classmate Nathan Schmidt tries to cultivate within the elementary school the same love for the school library that he had when he was younger.
As a teacher’s aide, Schmidt undertook the work of organizing the elementary school library.
“When I was younger, I saw it as a fun opportunity rather than a course, which is generally considered long and boring,” Schmidt said. “The library was always fun. You can open a different book and it’s something different each time.
Both students took these opportunities to play an active role in the community around them to make it a better place and they did so largely through their own initiative.
In Paul’s case, she took a cause and expanded it. Jeans For Jesus is a fundraising effort that allows students to wear jeans for one day during the school week.
Money raised from the effort goes to various nonprofits and charities. However, Paul expanded this to twice a month and led the charge on her own.
She was driven by a desire to help women, which inspired her through her own family connections.
“I think mostly on my mom’s side, she’s a single mom,” Paul said. “She had these difficulties taking care of my younger sisters, so I really stepped up to take care of her… I don’t want other mums like that to go through the same thing. I think it’s important to show support, but sometimes it’s hard to get such support.
They are also the women who most supported Paul throughout his life.
“My biggest role models and the people who have supported me have always been women in my life,” she said. “I always wanted to be like my role models, like my sister and my mother.”
Likewise, Schmidt looked to his own family as a model for his work at the Elementary Library. Around 2015, her mother and grandmother held a writing contest. Schmidt also made it for Mother’s Day.
Elementary school students were encouraged to enter an essay contest that celebrates mothers. The competition was organized by Schmidt.
“It’s not a fundraising thing, but a service project,” Schmidt said. “A writing opportunity. I started a writing contest for Mother’s Day so that children write a letter to their mother or to anyone who fulfills this role. Basically just a letter of appreciation.
Since taking on the task of organizing the library and bringing it into an orderly state, Schmidt has discovered something within himself that he believes will lend itself well to the future.
“I think I’ve shown or proven that I can really step into a leader role, take on or step into a startup role,” he said. “I don’t have to wait for someone else to do it. I can just do it myself.
Paul also gained insight into herself.
“What I took away from this experience is that I did a lot to help my community, but I want to do more and I want to keep pushing myself to help women,” she said.