I was at an Eastlake High School football game last fall and went to the stadium afterward to take the big flag I made for the school down. It is a bit challenging to bring it down on my own as it is about 14-by-16 feet. A nice student came over and offered assistance taking down my flag so I could roll it up and put it back in my vehicle.
He said, “We really appreciate you bringing this flag to the games. The students love it.”
I thanked him for helping me and then asked what his position at the school was, as he was picking up trash after the game. He said he was ASB president.
A couple months later I decided it was time to do a story about a youth in our community. I went to the school and asked who a great example of doing service for the right reasons was at Eastlake? The same student came up every time. The administrators, teachers and the students I asked all gave me the same answer — Ben Sherry is the epitome of doing service at Eastlake High School.
I called Ben to get his story. Ben moved to Sammamish from Ireland four years ago. He was attending Inglewood and was looking for a class to add to his schedule. His parents suggested a leadership class. Ben declined, thinking being in front of people and speaking was not really his thing.
He eventually changed his mind when he realized that there was more to leadership than speaking in front of a crowd. Leadership entails caring about the people you serve, he explained. Ben believes everyone is capable of kindness, and anyone can be the person he is, they just need to decide to create that in themselves.
“Everyone can make a difference,” Ben said. “No kind act goes unnoticed.”
Ben related that it can start with a simple smile. Pretty soon you train yourself to smile more consistently. This paradigm change can grow into offering assistance, and proactively looking for ways to help others. Ben has become very adept at accomplishing this type of volunteerism.
Ben has served on the Relay for Life committee, where the students raise funds for cancer research. He has helped at Hopefest, where they organize donations of food, clothing, backpacks, personal items, and by the end of the drive, they procured four containers full of donations.
That is rewarding, but Ben enjoys the chance to actually talk with the benefactors to get to know them, and personally go to the events where the students in need come to pick up donated items. Ben said we have a lot here where we live. It seems to me that we have a duty to reach out to others and help those who have less than we do. Ben believes in the chance to work with adults and older people at these community events. It takes time, he says, but he is not the same person he was four years ago. He has had mentors in his life who have taught him how to become who he is today.
“Some of my older peers noticed every student at the school, not just one crowd,” he said. “They spent time in the special classroom and I got to see the value of making friends with all types of people.
“The reward? How about endless notes of gratitude from a girl in the special needs room — not just for me, but for everyone she knows. That can brighten anyone’s day.”
Ben shared he has learned not to be quick to judge, give everyone a chance and know that sometimes treating an individual with respect is hopefully going to start something new and improve the world around all of us.
Not one time in my conversation with Ben was there talk of having a better chance at accolades as a result of doing service. What Ben said instead was that he has to remind himself that he may not always live in a positive environment like Eastlake.
The takeaway for me was I am sure many people would argue that high school was not this safe environment Ben describes. I believe Ben has MADE his surroundings at Eastlake positive. His attitude fosters a place of major impact through service.
I think there are many leaders who can learn a lesson or two from the life of Ben Sherry.
Amy McOmber is a 23-year resident of Sammamish.