Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Serving My Community as Student Member of the River Hill Board of Directors

July4thPicture - Jennifer ZhangLong before I heard about the River Hill Teen Advisory Committee (RHTAC), I remember seeing my brother standing in one of the parade cars, handing out candy to my neighbors cheering at the sides of the street and playing the national anthem on his saxophone. Awed but confused, questions such as: “Was handing out candy really that fun?”  and “Why was he up there anyway?” repeated themselves in my puzzled thoughts. Much later, I learned that he was a member of the RHTAC, a teen group focused on promoting volunteer opportunities and community spirit in the Village of River Hill and encouraging teen involvement through planning and implementing teen events and programs.

As a toddler, I decided that I would try to emulate my brother in all ways possible, especially if it meant I could hand out candy to my friends and neighbors and make them smile genuinely in return. This was the beginning of my desire to become a member of the RHTAC.

 

I have been a RHTAC member since the summer after eighth grade, and it has been about three years serving my community, having fun with my fellow teen members and becoming more involved in River Hill events. This past year, I was appointed as the Chair of the committee and Student Member of the River Hill Board of Directors.

 

The first year I joined RHTAC, I recall being frightened of simply sending an email to Ms. Susan Smith, the manager of the River Hill Community Association (RHCA), or even conversing with the older RHTAC members; I felt a constant pressure to be as mature and well-spoken as the upperclassmen were. Over the years, that has changed a lot – I have become accustomed to interacting with people of all ages and groups, and my involvement in the committee has contributed to the planning of events such as the River Hill Health Fair, Halloween Haunted House, Fourth of July Parade, Breakfast with Santa, and various fundraisers. Believe it or not, now I can easily sit together with the adult members of the River Hill Board of Directors and comfortably participate in the discussions.

 

The event I have enjoyed planning the most is the River Hill Health Fair. The River Hill Health Fair is a village-wide event co-organized by the RHCA and CHOICE, the Coalition Halting Obesity in Children Everywhere. For the past three years, these fairs have annually attracted more than a thousand River Hill residents and the participation of more than 50 local health-related businesses. River Hill Health Fairs have successfully raised health awareness and broadened teen participation in community events; in fact, all of the volunteers at the fair are teens from River Hill and Atholton High School and are organized by the RHTAC. Many of the teens have personally told me that volunteering at such a large event was an extremely exciting and unforgettable experience.

 

One of our upcoming events, the Pet-a-Palooza fundraiser and charity, is coming up on May 14th. In this event, River Hill residents are invited to come make pet toys (tennis ball toys, braided tug toys, fleece blankets, etc.) for their pets. All extra pet toys made will be donated to Fidos for Freedom, a nonprofit organization that holds programs which directly involve the training and utilization of dogs in service and therapy, and the admission fees for the event will be donated to Warrior Canine Connection­­­­, an organization that helps wounded warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other through Canine Connection Therapy. The RHTAC has successfully secured sponsors for our event and I have been fortunate enough to confirm the attendance of a therapy dog from Fidos for Freedom!

 

Through the experience of planning the Health Fairs, fundraisers, and all of the RHTAC events, I have seen myself evolving from a shy teenager into a more responsible, capable, and confident student leader. River Hill, as it is now, is a direct result from the efforts of all of our residents, and especially of our volunteers who strive to create a sense of unity in our community. RHCA will always benefit from more student involvement and interest in events and committees, and we are always on the lookout to recruit more student members for the next term of the RHTAC.

 

The application period for RHTAC membership is now! Applications are available on the website under the Get Involved tab or at Claret Hall, and are due by May 25, 2016. To parents, I encourage you to talk to your high school student(s) about applying to be a part of RHTAC, as this experience will be salubrious to their development into mature, inspiring student leaders of our community. To students, I strongly recommend that you take this priceless opportunity to join a dedicated, engaging, and lively group of your peers to not only serve and give back to our community while having fun, but also to develop communication, organizational, and leadership skills that will benefit you your entire lives.

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