Yankton High School senior Allie Thiesse has been named the first of three recipients from across the nation to receive this year’s Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership scholarship.
“I walked around (Yankton High School) dressed as a vampire to help create awareness and support for the blood drive being hosted at our school,” she said. “We wanted to get more people to sign up to donate blood.”
Clearly, Thiesse was willing to do what it takes to benefit others.
When she applied for a national scholarship, the application required the completion of 250 hours of community service. No problem — the YHS senior had completed more than 500 hours.
Her work has ranged from helping young people with cancer to serving a Puerto Rico mission. She has done it all while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, including Advanced Placement courses, and a full range of school and church activities.
She wasn’t paid for her volunteerism, but she has now been rewarded.
Thiesse has been selected as the first of three young people from around the nation to receive this year’s $1,000 college scholarship from the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership program. She had attended HOBY’s South Dakota State Leadership Seminar in 2013.
“I am ecstatic to receive this scholarship as HOBY has had an unbelievable impact on my life,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to be blessed with this opportunity.”
After graduating from YHS this spring, she plans to attend the University of Sioux Falls and pursue a double major in elementary education and special education, with minors in business and Spanish with an emphasis on non-profit organizations.
Thiesse’s resume is breathtaking in the wide variety of individuals and causes she has benefited. However, she has shown a special passion for helping cancer victims, particularly young people.
One project hit very close to home for Thiesse. Her friend and classmate, Adam Walter, was diagnosed twice with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She founded “Walter’s Warriors” to raise awareness and money. The initiative, which included T-shirt sales, has raised more than $7,500 so far.
“Adam is one of my good friends,” she said. “I thought (this project) would go far, but not as much as it did. It just exploded. We sold T-shirts to people as far away as Texas, and I think to every one of (Walter’s fellow) baseball teams in the state (of South Dakota). I also designed and still operate the Walter’s Warriors Facebook page which currently has over 1,000 likes.”
Thiesse took the show of support one step further.
“I planned a Red Out night during the baseball season and had everyone wear their shirts to support my friend,” she said. In addition, a local business donated cupcakes with Walter’s uniform number for the fans and players.
Thiesse has also designed T-shirts and operated the Facebook page benefiting Quinn Pesicka of Sioux Falls and her battle with brain cancer. Thiesse has sent shirts across the country and has expanded it to sweatshirts. The effort has raised more than $10,000 for the Pesicka family to use for medical treatment.
“I helped put together an order for the Texas A&M soccer team and shipped the shirts to them. The soccer players wore them for Quinn when her family went down (to Texas) for a game,” Thiesse said. “(I) also put together an order for Quinn’s entire school as a surprise when she returned to school.”
In addition, Thiesse has designed T-shirts and set up a Facebook page for Tom Rokahr, who is battling leukemia. She also spearheaded a collection of Legos to keep him busy while he remains hospitalized.
In addition, she has written letters and packed back packs for children who had cancer._She has also participated several years in Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Relay for Life, both national cancer programs.
She has also worked with Relay for Life in Yankton.
“(I) also put together a talent portion to perform late-night entertainment,” she said. “I also helped our group — the youngest group they’ve ever had participate — make lanterns in memory of family members. Our group raised over $3,000 for cancer research.”
TAKING ON OTHER CAUSES
Not limiting herself to local issues, Thiesse has performed outreach through a mission trip to Puerto Rico. She hopes to pursue another mission trip while attending college.
She has also raised awareness on social issues such as bullying, the images of women and girls in the media and a Girl’s Night Out to promote self-confidence in girls. Last summer, she took a class at the University of South Dakota called Women, Power and Leadership.
In one project, she showed the negative images and stereotypes for females found in the media.
“I took multiple magazines and changed the ads with post-it (notes) and permanent markers,” she said. “The ads I changed (had) sexually objectified women. By shutting down these ads, it helped bring awareness to young girls and magazine companies.”
She has also fought bullying at the local and national level.
“(I) attended a PTA-sponsored anti-bullying national campaign in Cincinnati,” she said. “We did research and presented our ideas on preventing bullying in high school. (I) participated in a national commercial and presented ideas to (YHS principal Jennifer) Johnke.
On another front, Thiesse has reached out to others in need because of misfortune or disaster.
* She collected more than 60 pounds of art supplies and superhero capes, along with speaking in her church to increase awareness, to help children affected by the trauma of Oklahoma tornadoes.
* She made thank-you cards for local firefighters for their service including their battling a neighbor’s house fire. She also made cards for the families of Arizona firefighters who died in a 2013 wildfire.
* She collected hygiene products and clothes for the neighbors when their house burned down. She raised more than $300 worth of donations for the family.
In addition, she graduated from the South Dakota Highway Patrol Youth Trooper Academy where she spent a week observing troopers in action.
She has served as a HOBY ambassador, attended Girls State and served as a Youth PTA South Dakota candidate for the national conference in Cincinnati.
Her volunteer work have benefited children in need of shoes, the hungry, house fire victims, the elderly, Special Olympics, tutoring, a blood drive and a food drive.
She has helped raise funds for her high school marching band and volunteered at a car wash to help classmates attend the National History Day conference in Washington.
Her efforts aren’t limited to her fellow human beings. She has undertaken efforts to benefit pets at the local Humane Society and other animals through wildlife organizations.
Looking ahead, Thiesse loves teaching and anticipates a career in the classroom, possibly as a translator with her Spanish skills or even taking more mission trips.
“I feel that life is a learning process, and I try to be an example for others by first leading and hoping to have them follow me in my volunteering,” she said.
“I sense people learn better by seeing the direct results of time, patience and hard work.”