At the 31st Annual Wallingford Rotary Club Award Ceremony held at The Library Wine Bar and Bistro on June 6, 2018, six high school juniors were chosen as this year's High School Citizens of the Year - two students from each of the town's high schools, Sheehan, Lyman Hall, and Choate Rosemary Hall. Students were selected based on demonstrating the Rotary Club's motto: "Service above self ... Distinguished service to school, to community and humanity." In addition to being recognized, each student received a $100 scholarship from the organization.
Ethan Wedge '19 is no stranger to the value and impact of community service, both on himself and on those whom he serves. Ethan has served at local river clean-ups, animal shelters, preparing a home for a refugee family, Teach Wallingford at Moses Y. Beach Elementary School, and The Connecticut Food Bank. Most recently, Ethan helped organize Choate volunteers to support the Autism Walk hosted at Lyman Hall, and he spearheaded a Rotary fundraiser, Purple Pinkie Project, to raise awareness and donations for Polio elimination by painting donor's pinkies purple.
Ethan's contributions to the Wallingford community through Rotary initiatives span from organizing peer volunteers from Choate to support the Rotary booth at Celebrate Wallingford in support of the Wallingford Foundation, as well as collecting monetary donations for the Thanksgiving fundraiser at Dunkin' Donuts and packing up coffee for troops overseas. Ethan has managed to make a connection between his dedication to Rotary and Choate by establishing the Interact Reading Buddies Club that meets with local children once a month to help them improve their reading skills through educational activities and mentorship.
Ethan is also a Boy Scout, continuously participating in community service projects from helping his peers with their own Eagle projects, as well as focusing on his own. Ethan's project involves collecting supplies for Project C.U.R.E., an organization that is a leader in distributing medical supplies worldwide. Specifically, he is collecting baby wipes, Band-Aids, feminine hygiene products, etc., for distribution to those in need.
Ethan reports, "With my experiences in community service, I have learned valuable lessons of cooperation and empathy. Ultimately, the importance of community service to me lies in how its effects fit into my vision of a better world. One can address problems by 'walking the walk' rather than just 'talking the talk.'"
Senen Joaquin Antunez Tierney '19 (pictured here) is an active member of the volunteering community, serving as a member of Choate for Women, South Asian Association, Helping Hands, and as the rising co-president of the Adapted Swim Program. He has also served at the Juvenile Diabetes Walk, Connecticut Food Bank, Walk for Autism, and has donated blood through the American Red Cross. Recipient of Choate's John Kirby Simon '79 Community Service Award his freshman year, Joaquin has volunteered to help maintain the Butterfly Garden at The Senior Center and has worked on a mural at the Ulbrich Boys and Girls Club in town.
But it is Joaquin's work with the Adapted Swim Program that has captured his dedication over the years. A dedicated and active participant in this program sponsored through the Parks and Recreation Department, Joaquin is the epitome of Service Above Self. A new student at Choate his freshman year, Joaquin did not let not knowing other volunteers dampen his participation in the program. Rather, he used it as a vehicle for encouraging and bringing others to join in the activities on Thursday nights. Having formed relationships with several of the regular attendees, Joaquin loves seeing their happiness when in the water with people they can now call friends. In his own words, Joaquin says, "The experience is probably just as rewarding as it is for the Special Population people [as it is for me]."
Even as a small child, Joaquin was in tune with his privilege and place and society, keenly aware that not everyone was "dealt a good hand in life," to use his own words. Hearing stories about violence and hatred in the news that plagues so many communities in society today, and noticing how some individuals attempt to lift themselves up by lowering others, Joaquin has chosen to be proactive and offer a ray of light to those in need. He remarks, "To me, it seems much more reasonable to work together and help each other rise... Everyone deserves basic necessities like food, shelter, and people who care about them. Community service is my way of giving back and showing my appreciation and understanding of people less fortunate."