Through Relay For Life, these Gwinnett teens are putting the focus on others
It’s 2016 and the culture is screaming, “You’re entitled!” But in a world filled with over seven billion people not everyone has it their way. Nonetheless, the message “It’s all about you!” blares from every corner. In a selfie world where image is everything and self is central, it is almost surprising to see the next generation of leaders (currently in high school) giving us examples of selflessness that each of us can learn from. Gwinnett’s Relay For Life gives these students an opportunity to do something for others that haven’t gotten the lives they expected. When cancer strikes families, it takes a community of people to help them fight and these Gwinnett high school students are proving that you can be selfless in a selfie world.
Samantha has been a part of Relay For Life since she was in the first grade, helping with her mother’s school. In the 6th grade, she volunteered on her own school’s team, having fallen in love with the cause. When she was a sophomore, her grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“My grandma’s fight wasn’t a very long one. She lost her battle the same year. My life honestly is not the same without her. She was one of my biggest supporters. I help with Relay so that no one else has to lose someone they love.”
Samantha coaches gymnastics part-time and is a part of Archer’s theater department and chorus.
Valentina has been helping with Relay for two years now and handles many responsibilities for her school’s team, sits on the leadership team and coordinates events.
She wants to see more student involvement in Relay. She says, “This disease affects so many people and families in the world today. I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through that, and if they do, I want them to know they have support through their tough time.”
Now in her third year with Relay, Lindsey volunteers for her stepfather, Pete, who was diagnosed in 2005 with Stage 3 Metastatic Melanoma. Originally given a year and a half to live,
he beat it. “When he met and married my mom in 2012, he made a huge impact on my life,” says Lindsey. “Joining Relay was a way for me to show him how grateful I am
Lindsey plans to pursue a career in nursing after attending University of North Georgia. She is also involved in Spanish Honor Society and Spanish Club.
Central Gwinnett High Senior
Samantha volunteers with Relay For Life for her dad who was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2012. She remembers feeling hopeless and that she didn’t know what she could do. Relay is as what she describes as, “The chance to help others who felt helpless as well.” She’s been serving since her freshman year and will continue to keep volunteering as long as she can.
Samantha will attend Georgia Southern University to pursue a major in exercise science. Samantha is on Central Gwinnett’s student council and the varsity softball team. She also volunteers for her church.
Collins Hill High
Kayla began contributing to Relay when her grandfather passed away in 2002 of prostate cancer. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, Kayla became even more involved.
“I really became passionate about Relay For Life in the beginning of my high school career. I just hope that one day no one will ever have to go through the pain I have watched family and friends go through. It inspires me to do more!”
Kayla is co-president of the Collins Hill High School Leadership Team, a member of National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She also enjoys hiking in her spare time.
Elizabeth’s family has dealt with the dark side of cancer for a long time. Both of her grandfathers passed away from the disease, and they were the reason she got involved with Relay in the fourth grade.
“I don’t just Relay because cancer runs in my family, I Relay for people who are fighting every day for their lives against this beast that is trying to take them away.”
Elizabeth will be attending Kennesaw State University and will be a member of the Thrive Program there. She is a student of leadership and her hobbies revolve around school, family and friends.
Christy’s grandmother passed away from ovarian cancer. She was never able to meet her because she passed a year before Christy was born.
She has a reason for doing all she does for Relay, “I want to help so that
no one will ever experience life without their grandmother”
Christy will be attending the University of West Georgia for nursing. She currently works part time at Zaxbys and is an office aide for an ESOL teacher at Discovery, is involved with orchestra, D.B.E.S.T Club and golf.
Bailey has attended Relay For Life as long as she can remember, and has been helping with the event for nine years.
“Relay has always been a part of my life because my mother is the captain of her middle school team. Now, I’m the captain of a team. I’m happy I can make a difference.”
Bailey is now making her college choice – between Auburn, Virginia Tech or UGA. She loves science and aspires to be one of the scientists that helps find a cure for cancer. High school activities? Too numerous to mention, topped by National Honor Society.
Ashley San Miguel
Ashley started helping with Relay two and a half years ago, following the loss of her great aunt to cancer. “I grew up with her as a constant part of my life. Losing her was really hard on my entire family and it was a long painful battle. I work with Relay because I know firsthand how hard it is to… battle cancer and to feel as if your family is doing it all on their own.”
Ashley will attend Reed College in Portland. She plans to double major in History and Literature, and wants to return to Gwinnett to teach one day. Ashley is very involved in Student Council, Beta Club and multiple academic honor societies.
This is the second year that Biridiana is helping with Relay For Life. Cancer has taken two very important people away from her.
“It’s because of my losses that I don’t want others to be without a father, a son or a grandfather. There is a need in cancer research for better treatments. Any contribution helps. This is why I say — I am not part of Relay; Relay is a part of me.”
After high school, Biridiana will attend Georgia State University and is interested in a wide variety of majors. She is involved with Student Council, GoSTEM, National Honor Society, H.o.P.e. (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education), and other organizations.
Mill Creek High
Lacey was first introduced to Relay in her freshman year and has helped to coordinate fundraisers and design and sell t-shirts for the last four years.
She seeks to help others through Relay for many reasons — one being that she lost her father to cancer in 2014. “I was a daddy’s girl and he was my biggest role model. I didn’t realize how helping with Relay would also become a huge support beam for me till this day.”
After high school, Lacey plans to attend Brenau University to pursue the medical field and become an oncology nurse. Relay is one of her main focuses at Mill Creek, but she
also very active in the school’s chorus.
NORTH Gwinnett High
Elena knows what it is like to be a survivor because she is one herself. She was only nine years old. In 2012 only after being out of treatment for 6 months she replapsed and after another round of chemotherapy and total body radiation had a life saving bone marrow transplant that July.
Needless to say, Elena knows how important Relay For Life is to her, “Being a part of the survivor walk is really special. Seeing everyone cheering and lining the track is pretty amazing! There are so many survivors, young and old, it is inspiring.”
Elena plans to attend college and become a child life specialist. She is involved with National Honor Society, Beta Club and theater.
South Gwinnett High
Jessica has been helping with Relay for the last two years and also volunteered during middle school. She hasn’t had a family member battle cancer, but still has a passion to end the disease.
“I am aware of the tragedies cancer causes. I took over Relay For Life for my high school because I want our school to be known for helping fight cancer. This allows me to… help people in my community and around
Jessica is planning on being in the medical field after college. Along with running the school’s Relay For Life efforts, she’s
also in Beta Club and National Honor Society.
Tina first joined Relay in middle school, and has been helping out for the past six years. She also has a very personal reason for remaining active in Relay For Life.
“I Relay for my uncle and aunt. My uncle was one of the nicest people I know, always finding a way to make sure everyone was having a good time and keeping us entertained and on our feet. After lung cancer took his life, it was hard to watch my family members around me fall apart.”
After high school, Tina doesn’t plan on leaving Relay but does hope to find new volunteer opportunities. She is also involved with Student Council, the Norcross Student Leadership Team, Best Buddies, Interact, and IB Club.
Mountain View High
Ansley got involved with Relay because of her mom, who was diagnosed with bone cancer when Ansley was sixteen. Her mother later worked with American Cancer Society, which gave Ansley a head start in her involvement with Relay.
“My mother is my biggest inspiration and the number one reason why I am involved with Relay. I also Relay for my friend, Ansley Arnette, who died at 13 of a rare form of brain cancer. It’s been five years since we lost her, and still not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.”
Ansley now leads the Relay effort at Mountain View High School. While only a sophomore, she has helped her team grow from low participation just a year ago to over 40 student volunteers now.
Peachtree Ridge High
Chloe has been a part of Relay since her freshman year, and has taken a special interest in all the fundraisers her school hosts for American Cancer Society.
She has a unique perspective when it comes to fighting cancer. In each assembly for Relay, students are asked to raise their hands if they have been impacted by cancer in their families. When Chloe saw all the hands go up, she knew she had to do all she could do to help.
“I took on my first major role helping my school’s Relay team my junior year when I served on the sponsorship team for the Ridge Run, a 5K color run the school hosts to raise funds and awareness for Relay.”
Chloe will be attending Emory University, and plans to major in business or international affairs before pursuing a law degree or an MBA.