Walnut Hills High School
My intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati is a very special person. It gives her such satisfaction to reach out and help others. Below is her story, in her own words, of how a simple acts of kindness touched her; and how she thinks about that impact.
At my job at the Fresh Healthy Café in the Kenwood Towne Centre, in lieu of a tip jar, we have a jar for the homeless. Most people drop in their change, while others dig into their wallets for a few extra dollars. This may not seem like much, but during the holiday season, the mall is bustling with excitement. When each person donates a spare quarter or two on average, it adds up. A few weeks ago our donation jar topped $100. Each day we collect change so the Fresh family can donate a large sum of money at once, rather than multiple small donations. While it is certainly not enough to make a huge impact, it feels good to be doing something to help.
Especially around the holidays, I was extremely concerned for the homeless. As temperatures drop, I think of all the people who do not have a warm meal or place to stay the night, or even a family to celebrate with. I feel incredibly grateful for how privileged I am, but often find myself wishing I could do more for those who are not as lucky. I hope someday I can make more of an impact because it is sometimes difficult as a teenager to bring about huge change. However, I have come to realize that change doesn’t need to be earth shattering- one can make a big difference in small ways, such as delivering for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantries. My grandfather and I spent a lot of time working together at his local pantry, which I enjoyed very much because it taught me about kindness. The pantry was often at capacity due to a huge influx of donations, which warmed my heart. It was an incredibly humbling experience.
I often think of the food pantry or other similar organizations when I see people drop their change into the small jar at work. I remember the ease of picking up and delivering food, and how something so simple for me could make such a huge impact. Kindness works in many ways, and doesn’t have to be big. Small acts of kindness can make a huge difference, just as spare change can add up to a warm bed and a hot meal for someone in need.
Written by Good Things intern, Isabella Noe, a Walnut Hills High School senior in Cincinnati.
“Typically on Good Things Going Around, I have the pleasure of telling other people’s incredible stories. Today, however, I get to tell my unbelievable story of how I met one of my dearest friends. When I was eleven years old, I traveled to Japan with a program called CISV, or Children’s International Summer Village. The program focuses on instilling ideas of world peace and wanderlust into children to create more empathetic and worldly adults.
While there, I met a plethora of people from 12 different countries. One girl who I met while in Japan was Carmo Gomes, from Portugal. We went on our second homestay together and although she couldn’t speak perfect english, we became friends.
Fast forward six years. We had not really kept in contact other than occasionally liking or commenting on each other’s Facebook posts. I never thought much about her until my senior year of high school. Sitting in my fourth period class, I saw a girl who I could not place, but who looked incredibly familiar to me. My teacher asked me to show her to the office, and I agreed. As we walked to the office, I turned to her. ‘This is going to sound incredibly specific,’ I said, ‘but did you by chance travel to Japan when you were 11?’
She looked at me quizzically and said ‘yes, I had (in perfect English).’
I reintroduced myself, and within a second we were jumping around the hallway, screaming in excitement, and hugging. Carmo explained that she was with a program called AFS, living for a year in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the day progressed, we discovered we are both involved in theatre and have many of the same interests. It has now been a month and a half since Carmo and I rediscovered each other. Now, we see each other every single day and spend almost every single weekend together. We go to football games together, we are in Julius Caesar together, and she enthusiastically joins me at Good Things Going Around events.
So quickly I have realized how lucky I am to have her back in my life. We never connected on this level as 11-year-olds, so without this incredible miracle of fate, I never would have known one of my best friends. She has already invited me back to Portugal with her, and I look forward to what the rest of this year brings us.
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” -Marcus Aurelius
A positive teacher who brings out the best in her students is an incredible gift to a growing mind. My Walnut Hills High School intern, Isabella Noe, spoke with Dawn Wolfe. I think you will be moved by this teacher’s inspirational story of how her job brings her joy.
In her own words, from Dawn Wolfe, an English teacher at Walnut Hills High School (a Cincinnati Public School)
“There is a simple joy of seeing a student in the morning and saying, ‘Hello.’ No matter what that student has done, what they had been through that morning and the night before, they still come into school, and they are ready to say ‘hello’ and they are ready to work. Even when I give them an essay. And they still smile, and they are still thankful.
Actually I really love when I hand students an essay and they say ‘thank you.’ And that amuses me to no end, every time, because they are grateful for their learning, and they are thankful for the opportunities they are being given.
The opportunities that I have had at Walnut are different because of the diversity of students here, and the variety of students- not just socio-economic, not just gender, but the level of grades that we have (7-12). [I enjoy] being able to work with kids when they are very small and scared and new to Walnut…And then when I see them as seniors, and I got to watch them grow and work with them at various points. I think that is the most amazing opportunity that I have had here.
And then, when they come back and give me hugs after they’ve gone to college; That’s so cool!
One thing I love about teaching is that there is no repetition, even between bells. I teach the same thing every day, 5 bells a day…every day. But the comments and opinions of students make it interesting, and each year you get to start with a brand new group of students, a completely clean slate, and reflect on what you’ve done in previous years, and you get to do so much more.
You get to make changes to make things better for the students. Especially with this new human rights course, I hope I can impart the message that we cannot be passive and let things slip by. Let’s be upstanders, and make a change in what you want to in the world.
I decided to be an English major because I was the kid who read 5 books at a time when I was little. But, I was going to go to law school. I wasn’t going to be a teacher. But I was so proud of what I saw in students and I wanted to be part of that, and wanted to have fun every day when I went to work; I do have fun every day when I come to work.”
– Dawn Wolfe
Among the gifts this blog has given me has been the opportunity to get to know, inspire and explore with young minds who want to grow. I have loved seeing the ways in which they have grown from the experience.
One of the greatest compliments came several weeks back when Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School, reached out to me at the suggestion of my former intern Andrea Francisco. They are working together this summer and Andrea recommended Isabella get in touch with me. I am so very proud of Andrea and her personal growth, and I am so grateful to have been part of her journey.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my newest high school intern…Isabella.
Isabella has a great interest in photography and theatre. When she isn’t out photographing the world, she inhabits the Walnut Theatre Department, acting, directing, stage managing, set designing, and set building. She is an omnivore but thoroughly enjoys spending time in the kitchen making vegan snacks. Most nights she can be found working at a local healthy cafe or at the gym.
These are Isabella’s own words…
I started with a film photography my sophomore year of high school and my love for it has continued throughout the years. I love both film and digital manipulation and spend quite a bit of time in the dark room at my school. I intend on continuing my photography journey throughout my life. Long term, I want to go to school for directing. I hope to pursue acting and directing as a career because I have never seen another future for myself since playing God in my first grade Christmas play.
Someone who really inspired me while he was alive was my grandfather. He found value in every single human being he interacted with. This belief has shaped who I am as a person and made me want to pursue that goal of seeing value. I love and miss him dearly but I remember him every time I follow my dreams, as he always supported me in everything I did.
My goal each day is to make one person’s day just a little bright, and I hope my articles for Good Things Going Around do just that!
What a gift this blog has given me to get to meet truly beautiful people, people who give with their whole hearts realizing they have the capacity to affect lives.
Meredith Bailey is one such person. A senior at Walnut Hills High School, our paths crossed for the first time several weeks ago when her proud mother reached out to me. Karla wanted me to know about this special young philanthropist who has quietly been collecting shoes to share with those who otherwise would not be able to afford one of the great necessities that we so easily take for granted.
It began about four years ago. The Walnut Hills High School senior was looking for a Girl Scouts community service project. She donated a lot of shoes to Nike who recycled them for padded floors of playgrounds built in underserved neighborhoods. Then she gave shoes to pantries and Cincinnati nonprofits, and before long word got out. The requests kept coming in.
“I couldn’t turn my back,” Meredith told me. “Sure, sometimes I wish I had chosen something easier and there is nothing worse smelling than a carload of smelly gym shoes on a hot summer day but it’s a good feeling to know I am helping people.”
Meredith estimates she has collected, sorted, cleaned and distributed some 6,500 shoes since she began. Hundreds of pairs were given to Project Connect, to ensure Cincinnati Public Schools students who are homeless have something to wear on their feet when they come to class. She delivered 75 pairs of boots to Rockwern Academy last December. Six Cincinnati area nonprofits including the YWCA Battered Women and Children’s Shelter are also on Meredith’s list.
And about 300 shoes were given to SOTENI, who will give them to people in the villages of Kenya where native Cincinnatian Randi Marsh has established a program to fight AIDS.
I stopped by the Bailey’s house the other day to meet Meredith in person. A beautiful, tall and slender teenager greeted me with multi-colors of paint all over her hands. “I am a counselor at Girl Scout camp,” she explained. I had figured her summer job would have something to do with giving back.
She took me to her back porch where she had only a fraction of her shoe collection. (She had just given hundreds of pairs to Project Connect.) It was then, seeing her expression as she looked into the piles that I could really see deep within her soul. There, standing in front of me, was a young woman who hadn’t even decided upon her college yet but who had the foresight many don’t accumulate in their lifetime.
It is one thing to see in an email the words from someone telling you how happy it makes her to know she is helping people. It is a totally different experience to hear those words from a voice that crackles in raw emotion as she internalizes the impact of her good deeds.
Meredith spoke of a child who was able to attend camp because now there were shoes to cover her delicate 1.5 sized feet. And of the girls she came to know at a Girl Scout forum who put a face to the poverty in Kenya Meredith had until then only heard about through the news. One of them who had little or no material possessions had aspirations of becoming a doctor one day.
“It really gives you a different perspective on how much we have and they don’t have,” Meredith told me. “Those girls don’t have much but they still have dreams. They are so strong despite their circumstance.”
For me, I think strength can be measured in so many different ways. Caring and putting those feelings into action builds many of those muscles.
“I think happiness is the most important thing in life. The fact that I can make people happy is all that matters,” Meredith said.
If you have shoes to donate to Meredith’s cause, you can email her at: WeBeBailey@aol.com.