Seniors Graham Farrell and Matt Olsen address how giving back plays into their lives
“Help other people at all times”, “service before self”, and “not for self but for country” are the beliefs of the Boy Scouts, the Air Force, and the Navy, respectively. Seniors Graham Farrell and Matt Olsen live by these beliefs, spending the hours after school, weekends, and summers doing volunteer work and giving back to the community.
Farrell and Olsen have given back through Boy Scouts, local churches, and JOOI (Junior Optimist Octagon International) club. These activities consume the two boys’ free time, taking up to 15 hours per week, but they do not mind sacrificing it to community service like most teenagers might.
“In the end I always figure ‘well, it’s for a good cause, and there’s always another time to hang out with friends,’” Olsen said.
His parents, devoted Catholics, raised him with the mentality of helping others, so this is something of a second nature. For as long as he can remember, he has found happiness in helping others; as a result, charity and generosity have become his top priorities.
Olsen’s dedication to volunteer work began at five years old when he joined Saint Rose Catholic School and Church. The school’s curriculum had an emphasis on community service, and this introduced him to a life of giving back.
Olsen has since joined Boy Scouts as a way to instill altruism in the community, as well as attending a summer camp for the U.S. Air Force in Colorado Springs this past summer, which will assist him in giving back to the nation in the long run.
This camp took place in early June and consisted of six days during which up to 12 hours of physical training were completed and campers could attend classes offered at the academy. The camp was similar to a college visitation week, giving aspiring members of the Air Force a simulation of what their future might hold.
“What drew me to the Air Force was the ability and opportunity to serve my country and be a part of something that has such a big impact in the world,” said Olsen, who hopes to become a pilot with the Air Force.
He has been a member of Troop #60 of the Boy Scouts since he was six, conducting a large amount of his community service through this alongside Farrell, who is also a member. The group’s services vary from setting up community events to cleaning up trash in a creek.
Olsen and Farrell can agree that their volunteer work with the biggest impact was accomplished in West Virginia during the summer of 2013. They had traveled there for the National Scout Jamboree, a two week convention where 20,000 scouts from around the U.S. come and partake in activities such as
mountain biking, zip lining, and paddleboarding. One day of the 14 was spent completing volunteer work, and the troop was given an opportunity to give back on a larger scale than they ever had.
On one of their last days there, the troop took a bus from their campsite to Oak Hill, an impoverished town in WV, to build a playground for Collins Middle School. The school had previously owned nothing more than worn down play equipment. The group spent all day restoring it, and their labor proved to be worth every hour when the results elicited tears of gratitude from the school’s principal. Because of this, Olsen and Farrell feel this is the most important volunteer work they have completed, and continue to look back at this day with pride.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Farrell confessed, “but it was so rewarding.”
Farrell’s experience with giving back is similar to Olsen’s. Also raised in a religious family, he grew up with the belief that he is a servant to God and the people of the world.
Growing up with these beliefs instilled in him the desire to give back in any way possible, and he was able to do so through Boy Scouts, First Baptist Church, and JOOI club. He joined Olsen’s troop at 11 years old, has attended First Baptist since childhood, and joined JOOI club his sophomore year of high school, meeting in room 1026 every Thursday since then.
Because of his dedication to volunteer work, Farrell made the perfect candidate for president of the club that encourages students to engage in community service, and won the position at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
“The kids [in JOOI club] are super awesome,” club advisor and English teacher Aaron Cantrell said, “Our president’s fantastic: Graham Farrell.”
Much like Olsen, Farrell attended a summer seminar in Annapolis, Maryland for the U.S. Navy from June 11-17. This week was spent meeting teenagers from around the nation who shared his ambitions and attending leadership classes that strengthened his want to serve his country.
His recent services include cleaning up trash at local elementary schools, helping out at a spelling bee for kids in Paso Robles, picking up litter in the Salinas river, and feeding the homeless on the streets of San Luis Obispo, each time knowing that he was making a difference for someone.
“It makes me really happy to see all these faces and know that I’m doing a good deed,” he explained.
Farrell and Olsen can agree that giving back plays a huge part in their lives. The joy they receive from helping others is irreplaceable, and their lives would be drastically different without it. In the end, each grueling task is worth it when the reward is the priceless smile of a grateful stranger.