The coronavirus pandemic has made many people give up activities they enjoy, but one high schooler is not letting the virus take away her love for community service.
Abigail Gahr, a senior at Tanque Verde High School in Tucson and a competitive jump roper, is making a difference in the lives of kids and teachers in the new world of virtual communication.
“I have been dedicating my time and energy … coming up with volunteer projects around our community that don’t require people to interact with other people to avoid getting sick,” she said.
Gahr through her work with National Honor Society started a buddy program where fourth-graders meet virtually with high school students.
She also implemented a project that encourages people to record themselves reading books on video that teachers can present to kindergartners and first-grade students.
“I love giving back to the people in my community and I felt sad that I wasn’t able to actually see anyone or go anywhere to actually help people in person,” Gahr said. “So over the summer, I planned a couple of projects like this to really hit the ground running when we came back because I missed helping other people in my community so much.”
The projects have made a profound impact in just the first few months of school.
“Our fourth-grade teachers have said that their students are so much happier and they feel like they actually have someone to talk to right now and that they aren’t as stressed because they have someone to help them tutor and be there for them,” Gahr said.
Meanwhile, Gahr has already received 30 videos of people reading books that and being sent out to early-education teachers.
“They felt like they were overwhelmed, trying to teach, not only remotely, but also in person trying to figure out things for their students to do,” Gahr said. “They were just so glad that the NHS students were able to help out with this and that it made such a difference, even though it was just some storybooks.
“They said that it really did help them out a lot, so that really made me happy.”
Being completely new projects for the student organization, it took some time to get the programs off the ground. Gahr, however, said it was worth every minute.
“These projects have been a really big success and it’s really helped me feel like I was back connecting with my community again.”
Having a feeling of community and connecting with people has been important to Gahr since childhood.
“When I was little, we moved around a lot. I went to four different elementary schools before middle school,” Gahr said. “It was really hard to just always to be a new person in a new town, but I realized that volunteering and giving back to my community really not only helped me, but helped other people around me.”
Gahr plans to continue her passion for community service past high school in one of the best ways possible, studying to be a doctor at the University of Notre Dame and going to med school.
“I realized that I loved helping people and I love medicine,” Gahr said. “If I can make a career out of being able to help other people who are in pain, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Along with National Honor Society, Gahr also participates in student council and her church’s youth group.
She has helped deliver lunches for homeless teens in Tucson and created care packages for servicemen and women overseas with her church’s youth group while aiding with leadership forums as a student council member.
Gahr hopes the new programs created during the coronavirus will continue even when life returns to normal.