Jr. Ashlanders: Allesandra Geffen

Allesandra Geffen wants to make a difference in people's lives, particularly children. The hard-working Ashland High student is spending her summer volunteering at the Ashland library and at Ashland Community Hospital.

In her library work, she helps out at the children's library and coordinates the library's children's movie event on Tuesday afternoons. Geffen has been volunteering since she was 12, and says she gets a great deal of satisfaction working to both help others and to share her love of reading and literature. Children's librarian Perii Hauschild-Owen says she is struck both by Geffen's maturity and her thoughtful contributions to the community.

"Allesandra is a dream to work with," Hauschild-Owen said. "She has all the traits anyone hopes to find in a volunteer: she's punctual, responsible and eager to help. But more, she has had several creative ideas for our library program and we've been delighted she's shared them with us. Having a volunteer who is thinking about how to make a good program even better is quite wonderful."

While at the library, the busy 16-year-old took some time to talk with the Daily Tidings about her volunteer work and her hopes for the future.

DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?

AG: It's funny to say this in the library, but I love science. I enjoy writing and reading, but I like to do it on my own. In school, science is definitely my favorite subject.

DT: Talk about someone at school who inspires you.

AG: I've had two amazing science teachers, Mrs. DeSalvo and Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller was my freshman biology teacher. Mrs. DeSalvo was my chemistry teacher last year. She is wonderful. She really cares about her students. Both teachers have a way of being very interpersonal and letting the teacher boundaries fall away a little. I think all their students really respect and like them as people.

DT: What do you want to do when you finish high school?

AG: I'm actually looking into areas of medicine, but I also love the outdoors. I love backpacking, hiking, being outdoors and I love talking to people, so I was also thinking of wilderness therapy. There's an age limit to that — I think you can only push yourself so far physically and emotionally — but I think it would be great to give kids that sort of attention and time. I'd like to do it while I can.

DT: Talk about your work at the library.

AG: I've been working at the library off and on since I was 12, and I'd been shelving books at the library for about four to six hours a week. When my sophomore English teacher Mrs. Minor, brought up this particular volunteer opportunity, I jumped at the chance. It's fun doing the children's movie program. The children's librarians chose movies based on books; we just showed "Mary Poppins." We have anywhere from 25 to 35 kids and parents come to see the movies. That's a pretty good crowd for our little library room downstairs.

DT: What is your favorite thing about the library?

AG: The first thing that strikes me when I go into to the library is how happy everyone is. Everyone is glad they are there. I always go to the classic fiction section. My mom and I are both big readers. She passed on her love of reading to me and we often share books or take turns reading them. We like to go to Bloomsbury and look up some new books, then we'll go to the library and order them together. It's wonderful sharing books with my mom, like our own book club.

DT: What are you reading now?

AG: Right now, I'm reading for school. I'm reading "The Scarlet Letter" for like the fifth time, and then I'm reading "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood for the second time. It's a good tie-in with "The Scarlet Letter." I also enjoy Isabelle Allende, "The House of the Spirits."

DT: Talk about something you have done that makes you proud.

AG: I'm glad that I'm giving back to my community and, in doing so, I'm also creating opportunities for myself. I love literature and working with children, fostering a love of literature. I love seeing kids spark up when they learn something. I also work at the hospital and working there is really wonderful. I get to be in an unusual environment for people my age where you really see how it works behind the scenes and the connections people have with each other.

DT: Talk about something that is challenging for you.

AG: I find that I'm constantly struggling to find a comfortable place socially. I think as a teenager it's a little difficult to find a niche you're comfortable in without sacrificing any part of yourself. Of course, that's difficult, but I also kind of enjoy challenging myself.

DT: Tell me about someone in your family who makes you proud.

AG: My mom. She is really wonderful. She is raising my siblings and me on her own, and she's going back to school. It's great having a parent in school, though it does have its challenges. She's getting a master's in education. She's doing a condensed program, so right now she's doing an entire quarter in four weeks. We're very similar and we have a deep understanding of where the other person is at in terms of school work and trying to keep the rest of our lives together. It's hard not to be proud of her. I love her.

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