Service is a way of life for Mesa teen - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Service is a way of life for Mesa teen

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Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006 3:57 am | Updated: 3:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

At 17, Alyssa Bisanz is busier than many adults with all the volunteering and clubs she’s involved with. The Mesa teen has been volunteering with the Phoenix Zoo since she was 13, putting in close to 700 hours over the years.

She put together 500 disaster preparedness information kits using her birthday money, and distributed them to neighbors and local businesses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Sept. 11, 2001.

And she started a volunteering club — STARS: Students Taking Action and Responsibility through Service — to help younger students with volunteer opportunities.

“Seeing people’s smiles is the most gratifying thing,” said the talkative teen. “It’s not work for me. It’s like a way of life.”

The Dobson High School senior was the youngest honoree to receive the state Hon Kachina Volunteer Award last month. In 2004, she received the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award.

“I was very shocked,” said Bisanz, upon hearing she was one of seven who received the Hon Kachina award. “It was just one of those things that was like, wow.”

Bisanz said she spent the summer having the best experience of her life working as a page in Washington, D.C. She visited the East Coast and Ivy League schools with her family to explore her options after high school.

And she traveled back to Washington for a regional forum with America’s Promise: The Alliance for Youth, which was founded by Gen. Colin Powell.

Rachel Bisanz, Alyssa’s mom, said she is proud of her daughter but is concerned about how busy she is. Alyssa spent four days in the hospital a month ago due to dehydration, mono and a sinus infection, probably due to her jet-setting summer.

“She burns the candle at both ends,” said Rachel Bisanz, an Intel systems analyst. “But we tell her she can be whatever she wants to be. For her age she’s had a pretty interesting life.”

In school, Alyssa Bisanz is the vice president of the Environmental Club, member of National Honor Society and a peer trainer for the Anti Defamation League in the World of Difference club.

She’s also a Mustang Pal where she’s paired with a mentally challenged student, plays tennis on the school team and plays violin in the school orchestra.

Mike Foley, leader of trail experiences at the Phoenix Zoo, said Alyssa makes his job easier.

“She is the perfect mentor for other teenage volunteers that are just starting the program,” Foley said. “Knowing that she’s there, I feel comfortable she can handle any unusual questions that the customer will ask.”

STARS

Information: E-mail starsaz@cox.net

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