Sawyer Zeece, 14, of Lincoln, Nebraska, an eighth-grader at Lux Middle School, volunteered last year at the summer camp of a local children’s museum where she mentored a 6-year-old boy who is on the autism spectrum. Sawyer, who has always loved children, was looking for a way to occupy her time during the summer and at the same time do something that would make a difference in someone’s life. So when she heard about the museum’s camp, “I couldn’t wait to fill out the application,” she said. Her first day on the job, Sawyer noticed a quote painted on the museum’s wall that would become the cornerstone of her time there: “Making one person smile can change the world – maybe not the whole world, but their world.” By the end of the first day, “I set a goal for myself: to make one kid smile each day,” she said.
Most of Sawyer’s duties at the camp involved working with one child, with whom she developed a close bond. A typical day consisted of playing with the boy. Sometimes he would become overstimulated if the light was too bright or the noise level too high, so Sawyer had to learn techniques for calming him down. During their summer together, Sawyer read a lot about autism and began to develop a better understanding of how to accommodate the child. “There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you had a positive impact on someone’s life,” she said. Sawyer also volunteers for the museum during the school year, assisting with after-school clubs at several elementary schools and providing childcare services during special events.