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Southmoreland group volunteers to help younger children

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Officers for the Youth Education Association at Southmoreland High School are, from left: Sarah Brown, secretary; Cindy Severi, vice-president; Paige Weaver, president, and Alex Kitta, treasurer.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Officers for the Youth Education Association at Southmoreland High School are, from left: Sarah Brown, secretary; Cindy Severi, vice-president; Paige Weaver, president, and Alex Kitta, treasurer.

Several students at Southmoreland High School spend hours volunteering to help younger children.

They might be involved at Buddy Day at Twin Lakes Park or walking to raise funds for autism, or scaring people in the Hobgoblin Hike.

They are the students that make up the Youth Education Association, a group that numbers about 130. The group's mission is this: providing numerous community service activities which focus on events that directly correlate to helping students in the Southmoreland School District and around the nation.

“Our volunteerism is all focused on helping kids,” said Chris Fabian, adviser of YEA.

Fabian said he's been involved with YEA for 10 years, but added the organization has been at the school for at least 20. “I think it's really indicative of the culture at the high school. Kids get involved. The majority of the events we offer our either after school or on the weekend and the participation rate hasn't dropped.”

Dues for those involved are $5 per year or the student can pay $10 and receive a T-shirt for the Southmoreland YEA team.

YEA at Southmoreland raised more than $12,000 during the 2012-13 school year, with the main focus on Autism Speaks and March for Parks.

This year's officers are seniors Paige Weaver, president; Cindy Severi, vice-president; Sarah Brown, secretary, and Alex Kitta, treasurer.

Each — with the exception of Brown — has been involved in YEA since her freshman year. They spoke proudly of their involvement and feel it has provided them with extremely rewarding experiences.

One such experience is Buddy Day, which takes place at Twin Lakes Park.

“We get out of school for the day and go down to Twin Lakes,” Weaver explained. “You're assigned either one buddy or two or three. These kids have some sort of learning disability, whether it be autism or some sort of special needs. You're kind of their mentor for the day.”

Activities are provided such as paddle boats, a petting zoo and a magic show.

“It really opens your eyes to the world,” Weaver said. “We learn how lucky we are, especially seeing some of the kids who have more problems than others. It definitely teaches you a lot about people, not only the kids you're helping but you also learn a lot about yourself and kids in your class.”

Severi plans to be a teacher and is looking at special education as her field.

“That's what I want to do,” she said. “This is kind of the perfect club for me. It really just opened my eyes. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I changed to special education. It's giving me a taste of what I'm going to be doing.”

Brown mentioned she was not aware of the club as a freshman, but joined as a sophomore.

“I was very timid at first, because I really didn't do much volunteer work,” Brown said. “My first year I did a lot of the volunteer (activities) and it was lot of fun. Some of it is a lot of hard work, but it really pays off because you learn so much.”

Among the other activities with which the group is involved are: March for Parks, Walk for Autism, Hobgoblin Hikes, kindergarten registration and screening, Bunny Hop for Autism, Breakfast with Santa and many others.

Among the spring events is “Dime Wars,” which involves collecting dimes with the funds going to Autism Speaks. It's a team competition, with the winning team getting a prize. YEA members can be seen going from business to business to collect money in April, which is Autism Awareness Month.

Kitta enjoyed the chance to participate in autistic camps over the summer at Antiochan Village in Ligonier.

“It opened up my eyes on how I see how my life is different from those who have autism,” she said.

They all seemed to admit that their involvement in YEA has been extremely positive.

“There's things that have been offered to us and to everyone in the school that you will never be able to get in your entire life,” Brown said. “This club has seriously changed my life.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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