INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- As the season of giving continues, FOX 4 News continues to put our weekly Reaching 4 Excellence spotlight on young people giving to others in significant and extraordinary ways. This week you get to meet a talented teenager who sparkles on the stage but whose most outstanding performances have been in projects for charity and community service.
She's a superb student -- smart, dedicated, seemingly tireless. Gabby Goering is a champion in the classroom at Van Horn High School, ranking second in the junior class while taking demanding courses like college algebra and other advanced placement classes. Gabby's a champion on the stage, too, with a long list of acting credits in productions both at Van Horn High and in community theater.
"It's my life," says Gabby of how much her stage work means to her. "If I'm not doing a show, I'm thinking about doing a show. It's so much fun. You get to go places you'll never get to go. You get to be people you'll never get to be."
Gabby had major roles in all three one-act plays that Van Horn theater students put on this fall -- all at the same time. And Gabby also takes the stage as a singer -- performing with the school's major vocal music groups, including the elite Concert Choir and Chamber Choir and earning her way onto all-conference and all-district choirs.
"She's confident and enthusiastic," says Van Horn High vocal music teacher Erin Barrier who has known and worked with Gabby since she was in middle school. "And she's very energetic and loves to sing. It's obvious when you watch her in rehearsal that she loves what she's doing. And she's very talented. She works hard."
Doing theater not only has given Gabby an outlet for her wonderful artistic creativity, it's also provided her an opportunity to do her part for charity and community groups.
"It's just a really good feeling to help people out," says Gabby. "So many people are struggling."
There is economic suffering among the households in neighborhoods surrounding Van Horn High and Gabby and the school's other theater kids are doing something big about it. They lead Van Horn's annual Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat food drive. Gabby spearheads that project and has for several years. She and her peers go out to homes and businesses around Van Horn collecting donations and then stock the shelves of the food pantry at Northern Boulevard United Methodist Church.
"This year was incredibly successful," says Gabby with pride. "We have so much food."
Gabby also does her part to keep alive the art form she cherishes. She becomes a costumed character in the fall to work the annual Enchanted Forest, a family friendly Halloween event that raises money for community theater in independence.
"It's really a fun thing for me to do because you get to do something you love and then you get to raise money for something you love and it's awesome," says Gabby. "You know it's not going to die away because you're supporting it."
You'd have a tough time finding anyone at Van Horn High or the surrounding community who doesn't know about Gabby's big heart for helping -- and her talent and determination to do projects for charity and community groups -- and make them big successes.
"That's just the kind of girl she is," says Barrier. "She has such a good heart. And she did this shoe drive also last year for underprivileged children. And in our music honors society, she's helping set up a time for us to go and volunteer at a soup kitchen And we're doing the Tree of Warmth. We're collecting things. And she's just -- she has a good heart."
"It's really an amazing feeling," says Gabby about her work and the results of it. "Just like being a secret angel."
Just last week, the food Gabby and her peers collected went to the church food pantry. It totalled 1600 items weighing in at just under 11-hundred pounds. Meantime, Gabby is now focusing on her next big stage role. She just won the lead in the big musical Van Horn High will put on in February. She'll be Maria in The Sound of Music.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.