Occupation: Student at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha
Parish: Holy Apostles, New Berlin
Favorite movie: "The Guardian"
Book recently read: "The Phantom of the Opera"
Favorite quotation: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
- Henry David Thoreau
(Submitted photo courtesy Ashley Selas)
Helping others comes naturally to teen, family
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Although she's only 16, Ashley Selas is already looking for ways to help others.
Her interest in medicine paved the way for Selas of New Berlin to participate last summer in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Boston.
A junior at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, Selas was nominated by school officials to attend the forum. She raised funds to attend the conference and enjoyed meeting similarly minded high school students from across the country.
"It was a great experience," she said. "We got to have classes and doctors gave talks on their profession. We also visited medical schools, hospitals and were able to talk to students and go to a cadaver lab at the Boston School of Medicine, and spend a day shadowing a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital E.R."
Although Selas, an honor student studying for her International Baccalaureate Diploma, is interested in pursuing a career in biochemistry or another field of science, the most rewarding and meaningful aspect of her life is in reaching out to others.
As co-founder of the International Outreach Program at Catholic Memorial, Selas works with classmates in bringing awareness that, despite their young age, they have the power to change the world.
"We focus on awareness for efforts in countries that are less fortunate than we are," she said.
Under the guidance of school faculty, Catholic Memorial students reach out to Uganda's Invisible Children
"These children are in unfortunate situations and we want to raise awareness and fund-raise to send money for them to build a school," Selas said. "There are a lot of other high schools around here that are involved in it as well. We have efforts like band concerts and the funds will go to help. Right now, we are providing awareness of the need with posters, morning prayers and monthly prayer services in school for the Invisible Children. We have had a great turnout for this and it is quite exciting."
While it might be easy to take the comforts of a warm home, clothing and enough food to eat for granted, Selas is aware she and most others she knows are blessed to have more than they need.
"There are so many people who need more help than I could ever imagine," she said. "I feel that I need to be doing my part for this whole thing. I want to raise awareness so others know what is happening and feel obligated to do what I can."
Adults who learn about the school's efforts to help Uganda's invisible children are often stunned to witness the students' compassion and outreach in an often-selfish world.
"Some are very shocked, but they think it is cool that we coordinated it and are happy we are doing this," said Selas. "You know it is a small difference, but to be able to help them build a classroom and try to build their community can make a big difference in a kid."
Learning to give to others was instilled at her at early age by her parents who, Selas said, raised her to notice what is going on in the world. Generations of doing for others rather than watching others do it was never more obvious than when Selas' grandfather, Richard Krawczyk, helped her and her three younger siblings coordinate food drives to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.
"He helped us bring boxes to our classrooms in grade school and then we'd collect everything together and help St. Vincent restock and organize the pantry," she said. "We did this for about four years - and it was great; we got a lot of donations."
In addition to her outreach involvement, Selas is president of the junior class, writes a regular column in the school newspaper, serves as an ambassador to grade schools, and participates in the school's service clubs. Selas' Catholic faith grounds her and propels her to regard others as more important than herself - a lesson recently learned, she confessed.
"I wasn't exactly the most devout when I was a little girl," she said. "But last year, my religion teacher, Mrs. Linda Johnson, opened up my eyes a bit and just kind of created a new mindset for me about different problems and how I can help. She had discussions and shared stories and I guess it helped me look at things differently."