By Jonathan Ibanez

High school serves as the academic, athletic, and social seed for many students. In ninth grade, they are planted into fresh, nutrient-rich soil. Throughout high school, students experience periods of stimulating growth and periods of hardship. By their senior year, some will have grown into promising saplings and others will only just have broken through the surface. A select few however, will have grown into mighty trees with thick, intricate branches. These students have taken advantage of every ray of sun and drop of rain and are firmly grounded in their morals.

The Action Team has fostered the growth of numerous students at my high school on the island of Maui. Its national network of role models, mentors, and team captains have opened a sky full of nutrients that have nourished each students’ values, social skills, and passion for serving those in need. I have been a proud Action Team Captain throughout high school and as an incoming college freshman, the benefits of being a sturdy tree amidst a forest of saplings are already becoming evident.

While a part of the St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School Action Team, I learned a great deal about respect and responsibility. These qualities were put to the test annually at our Hale Makua Winter Ball — a Christmas party for residents at a local assisted-living facility.

As the event organizers, we developed a respect for the residents, recognizing them as part of a generation that gave a great deal to ensure our generation’s success. From that respect, we gained a sense of responsibility to them, ensuring that they would have the best experience possible during the Winter Ball.

While applying for colleges, programs, and scholarships, these characteristics were invaluable and served as great points of conversations in interviews with the directors of their respective departments. Respect and responsibility were just some of the many roots that I developed while a part of the Action Team that raised me to a level above the sapling students.

I cannot thank the entire Action Team ‘Ohana enough for all that they have done to help me grow and thrive as a student. From the awesome organizers and players on our monthly conference calls to my fellow Action Team Captains and all moderators (especially Mr. Fillazar and Mrs. Pruett from St. Anthony) — the opportunity to raise mighty trees begins with you, let’s keep our forest thriving.