Those familiar with Lake Forest High School (LFHS) junior Daniel Hanson, would probably know him best from the soccer field. Last year, he was the only sophomore on the varsity team, and this year he’s one of the team captains. But Scouts varsity soccer isn’t the only organization in town where Hanson takes a leadership role.
He also sits on the executive board of CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults), which plans the organization’s youth meetings, activities, events, fundraisers, and service opportunities.
“One of the things I love about CROYA is that it’s really about the students and the kids,” Hanson says. “They say the students lead it and we really do. That’s why we have the executive board. It’s also just like a second home I can go to be accepted or just to hang out with my friends. It’s great.”
It’s their activities and events that initially draw kids to their space at the Lake Forest Community Center. Like a Battle of the Bands, an 80’s-themed dance party, Instagram scavenger hunts, or massive games of dodge ball. This year they had their first bubble ball soccer tournament, where the players are all encased in giant inflatable globes, so that they can charge right into each other like bumper cars while playing five-on-five games of soccer.
But there are also many opportunities for volunteer service hours. Hanson is one of the stalwart volunteers for the CROYA Peer Mentoring Program. Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school, middle school students are shuttled to the conference room at CROYA where high school students offer tutoring help with difficult assignments. It can be targeted tutoring, if a student is having trouble with a particular subject, like science, they tap the high school science expert. Or more general help, treating the Peer Mentoring space like study hall, a quiet place to work on all homework and ask questions if any arrive. After studying, the kids get to hang out and experience the activities and camaraderie of CROYA.
“Todd is a student that we can totally count on,” says Todd Nahigian, CROYA Manager. “He’s got a patience and dedication that’s really uncommon among high school students. He appreciates the value of working with others to make them better, knowing that, in turn, it’s going to make him better.”
There are also service opportunities assisting organizations outside of Lake Forest.
“My favorite one is Feed My Starving Children,” says Hanson. “You’ll go to their facility and package food, like rice, that gets shipped off to somewhere in the world where kids are hungry. Because you’re actually packing it by hand, you feel like you’re really helping them.”
Other service opportunities revolve around worktrips to build or refurbish the homes of the underprivileged; harvest organic food from the gardens at Elawa Farm; assisting at Equestrian Connection, an therapeutic horseback riding organization for people with physical limitations; or visiting and helping at senior living facilities.
“The thing about CROYA is that it definitely helps you grow up and mature,” Hanson says. “I’m definitely going to keep doing service hours when I go to college, and after. I think everyone should be involved with service opportunities.”