Student:

Victoria Solomon.

School:

North Penn High School in Lansdale, where she is a junior.

Achievement:

Solomon, of Montgomery Township, received the Student Service Award from the Montgomery County Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at an awards luncheon last Wednesday.

The Council aims to promote equal opportunity in the county through programs including workshops, law enforcement partnerships, town meetings and interfaith symposiums.

Solomon, the only student in Montgomery County honored, was one of six individuals recognized for service work.

She is president of the youth advisory board of Manna on Main Street, a food pantry and community outreach center in Lansdale. Programs include a soup kitchen, food cupboard, and monetary assistance for rent, motel stays, utilities, and other emergencies.

As president of the youth advisory board, Solomon works with middle- and high-school students in organizing meals and other projects.

"For the community dinners, we cook and serve meals to Manna's clients," said Solomon, 16. "Some of our other recent projects include painting food bins with Manna's template, and helping to organize collections from a food drive."

Solomon has been involved with Manna for more than two years, and also serves on Manna's Board of Directors and its program committee, helping to shape fund-raising efforts and strategic direction.

At North Penn High, she is president of Goodwill Ambassadors, a service club that spotlights groups within the school that deserve recognition. For one Goodwill project, the organization served treats to lunch personnel at a Thanksgiving tea party.

In addition, the club offers new-student buddies to help ease newcomers' transitions into the school.

Question:

What does winning this award mean to you?

Answer:

I feel honored that the people who I work with at Manna and my school have taken the time to nominate me for the award and amazed that my parents had managed to keep it a secret.

Q:

How did you become involved with Manna?

A:

When my family moved into our home, my mother donated a few hundred books to Manna, and she's been on the mailing list ever since. One of the newsletters had an article saying a local student was starting up a youth advisory board for her graduation project. She was looking for high school students to join, and my mother thought I might be interested.

I went to the first meeting, and was immediately impressed by how friendly everybody was. I continued attending meetings and, after a while, was asked to join the board.

Q:

What about service work do you most enjoy?

A:

I love the feeling that I get after helping people - that instead of devoting my time to some mundane or superficial activity, I make a difference in another person's life.

Q:

Can you share an experience from your association with Manna that has had a profound effect on you?

A:

The most poignant Manna story I recall is one I heard about from Tom Allebach, the executive director. A homeless gentleman, feet bleeding, came to Manna in desperate need of shoes. His size 13EE sneakers had fallen apart during the wet winter, and, although Manna's staff promised to do what they could to help him, they were not very optimistic.

Much to their surprise, a young man showed up at the door an hour later to donate new socks and a pair of practically new, weatherproof work boots - size 13EE. Later that evening, the man in need of shoes came back to Manna, where he discovered that his wish had been fulfilled.

Q:

Why are you interested in working to promote equal rights?

A:

Although all men are created equal, circumstances alter our lives to shatter this equality. The only way to reestablish it is to work to ensure that everyone's rights and needs are met.

Q:

What are some of your other school activities?

A:

This is my second year on class cabinet, the class student government. As chairperson of the communications committee, I work to keep all juniors informed about class events. To accomplish this task, the committee organizes a monthly "common homeroom," an informational session in the auditorium that the entire junior class attends.

What a teacher says:

"Victoria is a Renaissance woman; I don't think there's anything she can't do if she puts her mind to it," said Ann Weinblatt, an English and journalism teacher at North Penn.

"In addition, she is one of the most selfless people I have ever met, giving of her time and talent both in and out of school."

- Erica Lamberg