At age 15, Serena Orsinger has spent 10 years in French immersion classrooms, from kindergarten at Fox Hollow/Charlemagne through middle school at Roosevelt, to South Eugene’s International High School. She’s front row center in the photo. As a freshman last year, she was looking for a way to get involved in the community beyond school. “I wanted to volunteer at the hospital,” she says, “but they said I was too young.”
So she Googled “volunteer opportunities for 14 year olds” and found Global Leadership Adventures. “It’s like Peace Corps for high schoolers,” says Orsinger, who raised funds for a trip to the Dominican Republic to help build schools out of recycled materials. “What I noticed most was terrible water quality. Waterborne illness is the number-one cause of death for 1-to-4 year olds.” She learned that the in-country nonprofit she worked with, 7 Elements, had a program to provide ceramic water filters to families, and she resolved to start a 7 Elements chapter at South Eugene. Its members include Thuja Wood and Emmelyn King in the back row, Connor Gabor, Sala Grady, Amelia Allen and Madeline Cottrell in front.
“The filters are made locally, so it benefits the economy,” Orsinger explains. “They cost $30 each, and if cared for can last forever. We raise money to get them made, then we’ll go down and teach people how to use them.” The group has raised $1,800 so far by way of car washes and yard sales. They plan another car wash on Sept. 17 at Pizza Hut on Willamette and a benefit concert at The Jazz Station on Sept. 20, featuring Serena’s dad Chris Orsinger on bass with the Gus Russell Quartet.