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Quaker Valley brother, sister given volunteer service award for library help

Siblings Guillaume Shippee and Tzarina Shippee (from left) are recognized by Quaker Valley High School Principal Andrew Surloff for their volunteerism.

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By Joanne Barron
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Brother and sister Guillaume and Tzarina Shippee said they are hoping to encourage their fellow peers to pitch in and help them help other students.

Guillaume, 16, a Quaker Valley junior, and Tzarina, 14, a sophomore, received President's Volunteer Service awards given through the Points of Light Foundation for their volunteer work at Sewickley Public Library.

The siblings, the children of Farnaz and Geoffrey Shippee of Edgeworth, volunteered more than 100 hours each this year as math tutors.

“We've seen that a couple of students helping other students can make a big difference and really believe that even a small network of students who are interested in helping others could make a much bigger difference,” Guillaume said.

“We really would like to take this opportunity to ask other students who may be advanced in any subject if they would be interested in participating in the tutoring service and help their community and fellow classmates.”

Whitney O'Dowd, coordinator of the President's Volunteer Service Award recognitions program, based in Georgia, said the siblings are among many volunteers recognized year-round all over the country.

Although she didn't have an exact number, she said she receives at least 200 orders for awards every day, which could include a lapel pin, a certificate a or a letter from the president of the United States.

Awards are given to Americans of all ages who volunteer for at least 12 months to those volunteering over a lifetime and encourages others to serve, according to the program's website.

The program, initiated in 2003, requires a certified organization to order the award to recognize volunteers who must log their hours with that organization or school.

The Quaker Valley School District sent in a request to honor the Shippee siblings.

Guillaume received a bronze Award for young adults, and his sister received the gold sward for children, and both received award certificates.

Teen Librarian Emily Fear said the Shippees approached her with the idea of tutoring students at no cost in pre-algebra; “Algebra I”; “Algebra II”; geometry; and “Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry,” or FST; and put in “a lot of hours — sometimes five days a week.”

With the Shippees' help, she said, one student was able to test out of a basic math class and enroll directly into a more advanced one.

Fear said she thinks it is a smart idea to have students — instead of adults — tutoring younger students because that puts less pressure on the younger students.

Tutoring can be very expensive, Fear said, and the Shippees provided the service free to the community.

“To have the skills to not only understand the math but be able to relate it to 12- and 13-year-olds is something special. They really deserve this award,” she said.

Guillaume said he and his sister wanted to tutor at the library because it is a place that anyone can go and provides an environment that promotes learning and studying.

Fear gave them the support they needed, he said, and helped spread the word about the service.

They wanted to tutor together so that they could help more students at one time to “make more of a difference, and they could rely on each other just in case one of them wasn't sure about a particular subject or couldn't explain it well enough, Guillaume said.

The brother-sister team agreed they respect the students who come in for help.

“It shows that they are interested in learning and that they are willing to work hard to do well,” Guillaume said.

He said he and his sister both intend to begin tutoring again in the spring.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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