Although they may have taken a break from school throughout the summer months, two Hernando students took the time to continue to teach, continue to learn and continue to help others. And they have certainly earned an A for their efforts!
Olivia Undestad, a student who enjoys studying graphic design at Nature Coast Technical High School, has been named the Hernando County YMCA School Age Programs Volunteer of the Year. Lillian Groudas, a dual enrollment student at Nature Coast Technical High School and Pasco-Hernando State College, was named Teen Volunteer of the Year at the Hernando County YMCA.
Olivia is a second-generation YMCA affiliate, as her mother, Hillary Undestad, is the program director at the YMCA Hernando County School Age Programs. “I’ve been volunteering for a little over a year,” said Olivia. “What inspired me to help at the Y was how open and caring the YMCA was. I know I made a good decision when I joined.”
Olivia stays active in the YMCA School Age Programs, which provide academic, athletic and craft activities for children from throughout the county. She stated, “My primary duties are to help other group leaders with projects and/or help clean up after them, as well as cleaning up after snack time or after field trips.”
And she is also a loyal member of the Hernando County YMCA. “My favorite things to do at the Y are going to the gym and coming on the weekends to participate in events,” she shared.
In her ongoing work at the YMCA, she seeks inspiration from her mother. “My mom’s work at the YMCA inspires me because it encourages me to always try my hardest, and that no matter how hard things can get, as long as you have a positive attitude, things will be okay!” said Olivia. “She has taught me through her work that giving and serving the community is one of the most rewarding things a person can do.”
Olivia herself has learned a great deal from her work with the YMCA’s School Age Programs.
“I feel like I can enhance children’s lives by setting a good example,” she said, “helping them with homework, helping them feel included.”
And she would encourage other kids to get active and get involved at the Hernando County YMCA. “I would tell them that it’s worth the time,” she said. “Working at the Y is such an experience.”
Hillary Undestad takes great pride in her daughter’s achievements. “Olivia is a wonderful young lady; I am so proud of her and her character,” she said. “She has always been a very timid girl, but she has always displayed so much kindness and empathy towards others. She is very sweet toward all of the children at the site she has been volunteering with. The children are drawn to her, and she shows all of them fair and equal kindness. Being a part of our volunteer program has really opened her up, her normal shy, quiet demeanor has helped her become more vocal in social situations and has helped her when it comes to making new friends and building new relationships.”
“I’m a very proud Momma.” Also worthy of praise and pride is Lillian Groudas, a dual enrollment student at Nature Coast Technical High School and Pasco-Hernando State College, who was named Teen Volunteer of the Year at the Hernando County YMCA. “I’ve been volunteering for about two years now,” she said. “As a kid, I was part of the YMCA’s after-school program, and I used to go to their summer camp as well. My family are also YMCA members and love going and using the facility.”
As a youth leader at the YMCA, she seeks to educate and empower other kids. “As a teen leader, I have helped host, plan, and attend our Teen Leaders meetings, encourage participation, and teach others how to be a leader,” she said. “I’ve coordinated and participated in multiple events, including fundraisers, community outreach events, meetings, races and other fun community events.”
Lillian has learned a great deal from her work at the Hernando YMCA. “Personally, I’ve grown as a person by learning how to communicate my thoughts and ideas to others while also learning how to lead a group of people,” she said. “As a YMCA volunteer, I am most proud about being able to volunteer and work in many areas, such as helping encourage race participants, caring for kids, and supporting our blueberry farmers and community.”
Chief among Lillian’s duties at the YMCA involves her leadership of a club meant to train and develop other young leaders. “There are roughly thirty members of the Teen Leaders Club,” she explained. “We meet every Thursday at our Spring Hill YMCA branch.”
Lillian feels that the act of volunteering is a valuable experience for any young person. “I’ve learned that volunteering is an eye-opening experience, which is why I think it’s so important. It teaches people how to lead, communicate effectively, be responsible, manage their time, be generous, and problem solve,” she said. “It also gives insight into what a job is like. Volunteering is a great experience, and it truly shows what kinds of positive impacts we can make as citizens of our community.”
Lillian is also an avid student and always manages to balance her volunteer work with her studies and academic pursuits. “I’m a dual enrollment student at Nature Coast Technical High School and Pasco-Hernando State College. I’m entering 11th grade in August this year,” she said. “Some of my proudest accomplishments are being able to properly manage my time with my studies, volunteering, clubs, and sports. This year I have recently been inducted into NCT’s National Honors Society, which I am extremely proud of.”
In the future, Lillian hopes to continue learning, growing and inspiring. “My long-term goals are to complete my college education and to pursue a career in the medical field,” she said.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Hernando County YMCA, call (352) 688-9622 or visit https://www.ymcasuncoast.org/why-volunteer.