August 16, 2018
School & Youth
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  • (L-R) Caitlyn Murphy, Matthew Mangano and Elena Harris were among the teens who participated in WoodsWork this year.
    Photos courtesy of Scott Wiley
    (L-R) Caitlyn Murphy, Matthew Mangano and Elena Harris were among the teens who participated in WoodsWork this year.
  • WoodsWork joined Habitat for Humanity in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the large group of 170 people helped to rehab three homes, beautify unoccupied homes with colorful murals, and clean open spaces.
    Photos courtesy of Scott Wiley
    WoodsWork joined Habitat for Humanity in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the large group of 170 people helped to rehab three homes, beautify unoccupied homes with colorful murals, and clean open spaces.

They Nailed It: While Building Homes Afar, Teens Show Altruism

Judy Tacyn
Judy Tacyn's picture
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August 7, 2018

Teens around the globe are actively engaged in recognizing the universal human need for assistance and compassion, and mobilizing others to address issues head-on. Here in Severna Park, altruistic teens have been on the forefront of good works for generations.

This summer, teens joined faith-based mission trips, such as Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church’s 34th annual WoodsWork, and a St. Martin’s-in-the-Field effort in partnership with the Appalachia Service Project (ASP).

The St. Martin’s group of 34 participants was in Knott County, Kentucky, where it worked with homeowners to improve their living conditions, their neighborhoods and their lives.

Emme Sayers, a Severna Park High School rising senior and a St. Martin’s community member, feels it’s important for young people to experience mission trips because they teach real-world skills that are unlike anything teens could get from a job or school.

“This trip allowed us to grow as a community, as well as individuals, learning things about ourselves that we would’ve never known otherwise,” Sayers said. “I learned even the smallest action can go a long way. I learned the value of communication and seeing someone eye-to-eye for who they are, and not what they own or have achieved.”

WoodsWork joined Habitat for Humanity in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the large group of 170 people helped to rehab three homes, beautify unoccupied homes with colorful murals, and clean open spaces.

Longtime WoodsWork adult adviser Vic Marone said, “WoodsWork is a youth-led mission that strives to serve God and the community through building homes and building relationships; but this isn’t about building the church, it’s about building the youth.”

Marone said the kids plan everything from the work groups to the evening faith-based programming to the onsite jobs and daily agenda. “We work together, clean together, play, eat and worship together. We are a community,” he added. “I love to see our kids grow during these trips. By the end of the trip, they are different people.”

Planning is a 12-month process. Severna Park High School’s 2018 salutatorian, Izzy Kintzley, was the youth chairperson for this year’s WoodsWork. Aaron Kent, a Severna Park High School senior, will assume the chairperson’s responsibility for WoodsWork 2019.

“I really like being ‘unplugged’ and shut off from the world during the trip,” Kintzley said. “WoodsWork is a safe, nonjudgmental, friendly and productive community.”

Kent noted that teens from Severna Park, Broadneck, Severn, Mount Saint Joseph, Archbishop Spalding, Annapolis Area Christian School, South River, Northeast and the Gilman high schools may come as strangers but leave as friends.

“Everyone truly gets along,” Kent said. “Our community is a no-judgment zone.”

Belinda Sloat’s three children — Micayla, Hannah and Carson — all attended WoodsWork this year. Micayla is a junior, Hannah a 2018 graduate, and Carson is freshman, all with Severna Park High School.

“We have always taught our children to give generously, whether it’s through their time volunteering, earning money for charity or other ways,” said Belinda. “They know we have a duty to humanity, to help others, and by starting at a young age, we develop adults who are compassionate, accepting and philanthropic.

“The biggest lesson they learned was that abject poverty in the U.S. does exist, and that it can be found just an hour away from home was very impactful,” Belinda continued. “Micayla especially was upset at the lack of basic things we take for granted, like health care. But they felt by doing their part through WoodsWork, they can help bring about real change and hope.”

Severna Park High School junior Katrina Schultz was part of the St. Martin’s contingent. “The truly special thing about ASP is that while you’re working on their houses, you get to talk to the family and get to know their story and how much this means to them,” she said. “We don’t realize how truly privileged we are in Severna Park. Especially as a teenager, I hadn’t realized that not everyone has the same privileges as I do. I also learned how to put insulation and siding up on a house.”

Severna Park High School senior and two-time WoodsWork participant Carson Kraycik learned of WoodsWork when she saw photos of past projects. “I wanted to experience the friendships and fellowship I saw everyone else experience while also changing the lives of a few families,” she said.

Kayla Minton, Severna Park High School senior, has been on two WoodsWork trips. “After confirmation, I grew very close to the church community and I knew that this was a great opportunity to strengthen my faith, build deeper relationships and make a significant difference building houses and restoring neighborhoods with Habitat for Humanity.”

Schultz said the trip put things in perspective because “I have healthy food on the table, more than enough clothes on my back and a roof over my head, which is more than some people in Knott County can say.” Carson Kraycik called the trip a “huge head-fake.”

“You think you’re going to camp with your friends to build a house and worship; however, you’re actually building some of the greatest relationships with youth and advisers, and you are doing an amazing thing for the community you’re serving,” she said. “I have seen this trip turn so many kids to the good word, and I think that is truly life-changing.”

Marone said “Harrisburg was as tough a place as we’ve ever been to,” but the people were thankful and that made the trip worthwhile.

“WoodsWork certainly makes you more conscious about the world we live in and uncovers many opportunities to accomplish great things when we put faith into action,” said Claire Minton, Kayla’s mother. “This is an experience she will pinpoint as an impactful part of her youth and faith journey. The community traveled together, stayed together, built walls together, revitalized outdoor areas together and worshipped together, and at the end, they achieved much more than the structures they built.”


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