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YLC 2022-23 David A. Huerta Student Volunteer Award Recipients Isaias Gonzalez, Connor Seibel, Theresa Wootton (Photo by Winston Henvey)

Area teens, 14 and older, interested in joining the YLC are encouraged to volunteer at The Storehouse to experience how their service can impact the lives of neighbors seeking assistance

The Storehouse of Collin County celebrated the hard work and commitment of 40 students from 13 area high schools while honoring the group’s seniors and leaders in the second class of the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) on April 15 during the council’s final meeting for the academic year. The YLC was established in 2021 to provide high school students with leadership experience while fulfilling the mission of The Storehouse to feed, clothe, and care as neighbors in one community. Three members of the 2022-23 class with the most volunteer hours were honored with the inaugural David A. Huerta Student Volunteer Award: Isaias Gonzalez (103.5 hours), freshman, Harmony Science Academy; Theresa Wootton (83.75 hours), junior, John Paul II High School; and Connor Seibel (66.5 hours), sophomore, Jasper High School.

Huerta, the award’s namesake, first began volunteering at The Storehouse in 2017 at the age of 14.  Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Huerta and his family came to Plano as immigrants seeking asylum from the political and economic unrest in their home country. Even at a young age, Huerta knew the importance of giving back and began volunteering at The Storehouse as a food cart runner, and later, as a Spanish translator assisting hundreds of neighbors weekly. He played an instrumental role in founding the Youth Leadership Council during his senior year at Plano West Senior High School. A student at the University of Texas at Dallas majoring in finance, Huerta continues to serve as a YLC Advisor while also working part time with The Storehouse team.

“David Huerta epitomizes the type of student leader the YLC aspires to develop – individuals who value giving back and who recognize the importance of working alongside others to better their community and uplift their neighbors,” said Ben Skye, director of communications and culture and YLC advisor, The Storehouse. “We look forward to recognizing outstanding members of the YLC with this meaningful award for many years to come.”

“Being a part of the YLC is a huge commitment for these students,” said David Huerta. It’s been a joy to witness the growth of each of our student leaders developing important skills such as planning and leading meetings, public speaking, and problem solving.”

Additionally, Aiden Chastain, a junior at Plano West Senior High School, was recognized for achieving 100 percent attendance by participating in all required YLC activities, including a meet and greet, orientation, a summer volunteer session, a midweek food bagging and planning session, eight service days, and eight YLC meetings.

The YLC meets on eight Saturdays from September to April, 8:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., volunteering and learning about the programs of The Storehouse, including distributing food to neighbors. The group volunteers during the first half of the morning and participates in a council meeting immediately following. This schedule gives members an opportunity to serve The Storehouse neighbors directly, while developing leadership skills, community perspective, and life skills. On Saturday mornings, The Storehouse serves an average of 650 families with approximately 75 pounds of food. The students load bagged food onto carts, deliver the food to the neighbors’ cars and converse with the neighbors throughout their mornings of service. From August to April, this year’s class completed a total of 1,626.25 volunteer hours.

“While The Storehouse is blessed with many youth volunteers, our YLC members are the crème de la crème,” said Candace Winslow, executive director, The Storehouse of Collin County. “We created the YLC to provide students an opportunity to serve their neighbors while developing life and leadership skills, and this year’s class excelled in all areas with creativity, innovation, and love and care for our neighbors.”

Fifteen seniors were recognized for their year of service: Anna Norris, Avery Cendana, Caroline Freeman, Carly Raspberry-Moore, Christy Liu, Grace Duran, Grace Pritchett, Hope Smartt, Kate Webb, Lourdes Brown, Mackenzie Murphy, Mia Blank, Nora Dufresne, Victoria Hathaway, and William Dai. The seniors shared some of the most valuable leadership lessons they learned which included the importance of organization and planning, teamwork, communication, empathy, accountability, adaptability, connection, kindness, and patience.

Additionally, nine students (squad leaders) were recognized for their efforts in helping plan and execute the YLC's objectives and activities this past year: Ajay Raghavan, Charlotte Blank, Grace Duran, Katherine Happe, Lourdes Brown, Mia Blank, Nora Dufresne, Raghav Gupta, and Theresa Wootton.

The 2023 YLC members attend the following high schools: Prince of Peace Christian School, McMillen High School, iUniversity Prep, Fairhill School, Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, John Paul II High School, Shepton High School, Frisco Memorial High School, Trinity Christian Academy, Plano West Senior High School, Jasper High School, JJ Pearce High School, Plano East IB, and Harmony Science Academy Carrollton.

“We opened registration for the YLC 2023-2024 cohort on Monday, April 17, and all 50 spots were filled by 5 p.m.,” added Skye, YLC advisor. “As someone who did not grow up in Plano, I am in awe of how young people in this community care so passionately for others and make a commitment at an early age to give back and serve others. We are thinking of ways to continue growing and improving the Youth Leadership Council as we enter year three of the program. While the YLC roster is full for the coming year, we welcome all high schoolers to sign up and volunteer at The Storehouse to experience our mission and help us serve our neighbors.”

To volunteer, visit www.thestorehousecc.org/volunteer-sign-up.

To learn more about the YLC, visit www.thestorehousecc.org/youth-leadership-council

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The Storehouse of Collin County provides short-term assistance and long-term transformation to residents of Collin County in need through the Seven Loaves Food Pantry, Joseph’s Coat Clothing Closet, Project Hope Neighbor Care, and The Academy Education Program. The nonprofit was founded in 2009 by St. Andrew Methodist Church under the name of Seven Loaves Community, which provided food pantry staples and grew over the years to meet a variety of needs. Over 3,000 families on average access Seven Loaves each month. The Storehouse provides clothing at no cost through Joseph’s Coat as well as counseling and case management through Project Hope. The Academy provides free and reduced-cost classes to assist with language, job, or life skills development. Visit www.thestorehousecc.org. The Storehouse EIN: 27-1883333

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