When Taylor Folt thinks community service, she thinks globally.

At a recent meeting of the Brandywine school board, the 16-year-old Brandywine High junior was presented with the Prudential Spirit of Community Award in recognition of her many volunteer activities

during the past year. While 380 hours of service is, in itself, impressive, what stood out in the recounting of her record is that about a third of those hours were spent in India.

"I got interested in India during my world history course and I wanted to find out more for myself," she said during a subsequent interview with Delaforum.

For Folt, finding out means more than just looking at things through a tourist's eyes. Even an educational tour doesn't do it. What she wanted, she explained, was an opportunity to share the life of an Indian.

Taylor Folt

That way, "you're not just a visitor -- you don't just stay in a hotel," she said. "You live where they live. You assimilate into their culture."

Her month-long sojourn in Rajastan last summer wasn't intended to be a vacation. And it wasn't. She taught English and American history to elementary school children; helped construct a basketball court for the school; helped put a roof on outdoor bathrooms; and "built inter-cultural relationships in general."

Folt went with a group of teens as part of the Putney School 'Seeds of Progress' program. That is a wide-ranging summer community service program organized by the private boarding school near Battleboro, Vt.

Participation is open to applicants from around the country. According to a description of the program posted on the school's website, "students learn from their labor and commitment not only that service is fun and educational, but that they can make a difference."

That sums up Holt's approach to volunteer activities. "I like to help out," she said.

And that applies to home as well as abroad.

She will move up from vice president to president of the Brandywine High Key Club next academic year. To belong to the club, a student must give at

Folt with a group of Indian elementary school children.

 least 50 hours of service. About 15 at the school qualify each year.

The club itself undertakes several community service activities during the year..

Finding opportunities to serve is not difficult, Folt said. While doing one thing, a volunteer frequently finds out about other things that need doing, she explained. "The more places I went to, the more places I found."

Her local venues have included Rockwood Mansion Museum, Foulk Manor nursing home, Delaware Nature Society, American Cancer Society's 'Relay for Life', and Jewish Family Services of Delaware.

Along with those activities she manages to live a very active life. She is an 'A' student with an interest in life sciences, particularly biology. She is undecided at this point between directing her college years toward a career in research or go on to medical school. Cornell, where she'll is her first choice for college. At Brandywine she also is on the lacrosse team and runs cross-country.

How does she find time to fit it all into her days? "The truth is I don't sleep much," she said.

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Posted on April 29, 2008

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