Back in February of 2014, I received a meeting invitation from our then Director of Youth Programs, Claire McEachern. She was inviting me to be a part of an introductory meeting with a young man who had responded to a request for a volunteer intern at FNC to help us develop a new web presence. Frankly, I was not optimistic. What college kid would be willing to give that much time to a project for a non-profit that he knew nothing about?
So, at 1:30 PM on February 20, 2014 Claire and I met with Zachary Hughes at our office. My lack of optimism was erased in about a minute. His initial motivation was the idea that doing volunteer work for a non-profit would boost his chances for getting into a good university once he was ready to transfer out of CCP. He came in the door with the confidence of someone twice his age, full of enthusiasm, prepared for the meeting and ready to roll.
Today, July 31, 2015, nearly a year and a half after that initial meeting, we are sending Zach off to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to begin the next phase of his education. But, what has transpired in those 17 months since he walked into our office is beyond what any of us could have imagined.
Not only did Zach start creating our new and improved website, he took full charge of the project – setting up meetings, reviewing content, offering suggestions – and ended up creating an incredible website. And, today we are rolling out the second complete new build of our website! There are still a few things we have to fill in (some of us missed our deadlines) – but, it is up and running!
That, in itself, would merit high praise for Zach, but it didn’t end there. Zach has taken a leadership role in our youth programming, helping with social media, fundraising for the youth, and even mentoring some of the teens in our program. And, he has done this with drive, confidence and compassion that, simply put, is astounding for someone of any age.
So, I am happy to announce today that Zach is the recipient of FNC’s 2015 Community Service Award, in acknowledgement and appreciation of his commitment to FNC as a Community Service Volunteer. He truly has set the standard for community service!
And, because of this – there is a second announcement! Because of the high standard that Zach has set in his time with FNC, annually, in his honor, FNC will present the Zach Hughes Community Service Award to a young adult who shows such a commitment to his/her Philadelphia community. The award will come with a plaque, and the person’s name will be added to a display at the office –and, the recipient will receive a $500 check! We can’t think of a better way to honor Zach and his contribution!
Finally, each one of the team here at FNC has gotten to know Zach on a personal level. He is one of us (a dubious distinction, but one he can now never escape) – and, he will be missed. Sure, he will still help us out occasionally, between his classes and all of the fun that comes with college life, but we will miss his presence with us. He has brought to our office an energy and presence that, simply put, has made all of us better people.
I can’t wait to see where he goes from here, but I know it is going to be amazing – and, I think that where it ends up may even be a surprise to Zach! Life is just like that. And, for someone like Zach, that’s what makes the journey so exciting.