“Lifting others up lifts me up.” For APH Senior Christina Autilio ‘22, community service is not just a hobby or a box to check off on her high school resume. It’s an opportunity to lift others up and make a wish come true.
Christina discovered her love of community service at nine years old. It all started when she and her mom volunteered at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving day. On that fitting holiday of sharing food and warmth with others, a spark was lit for Christina. She knew this was what she wanted to do.
Christina was first introduced to the Make-A-Wish Foundation when her mother had volunteered a few years ago. She then took to her computer and conducted research on the foundation and its mission. Make-A-Wish has been a non-profit organization granting the wishes of children with critical illnesses since 1980. According to their mission, “wishes can change the odds for children fighting their illness. A wish helps kids look past their limitations, families overcome anxiety and entire communities experience joy.” Just as she brought joy with warm food on Thanksgiving day to a community in need, Christina knew right then she wanted to help bring joy with a wish come true to a child in need.
Before transferring to APH, Christina implemented the Make-A-Wish club at her high school throughout her Freshman and Sophomore years. Through hosting various events and rallying her classmates to join her, Christina raised over $25,000 during her first two years of high school. When she transferred to APH for her Junior year, her goal was to implement a Make-A-Wish club at her new school.
“Since starting the club at APH last year, our membership has doubled!” says Christina.
Throughout her two years at APH, the Make-A-Wish club hosted a holiday fundraiser, selling bracelets and ornaments. At the Spring Arts Festival in June 2020, the club organized a raffle raising about $3,000. As she begins her senior year at APH, Christina hopes to plan an even bigger event to close out her high school career.
This year, the Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island Chapter began a pilot Youth Ambassador Program inviting high schoolers, like Christina, to help grant wishes of kids in need. The Program brings together a group of 20 students to gain a deeper understanding of the mission and the impact a wish can have on a child. In addition to being mission focused, the group of students will develop leadership and teamwork skills, learn the art of fundraising, and engage in networking opportunities.
After a rigorous application process, Christina is honored to be one of 20 students from MA and RI selected to be in the Youth Advisory Board. In addition to serving on the Board, Christina was selected to be on the School Engagement Subcommittee based on her outstanding work with successfully implementing the Make-A-Wish Club in not one one, but two, high schools! The School Engagement Subcommittee is tasked with helping spread awareness to other schools and assisting them with starting their own club and providing tips and ideas for fundraising.
“I remember what it was like to do the club for the first time,” says Christina. “I want others to see that it’s possible to do the same for their schools!”
As she reflects on her experience, Christina wants to continue this momentum into college. For her, making a wish come true was the biggest reward she could receive. “All the work you do pays off and you make the children so happy in the end,” she says. “Ghandi said it best: ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’”