STILWELL, Kan. -- Students traveling or studying in foreign countries has long been seen as powerfully enlightening and educational. And it can spark strong desires to help others. So it is with the FOX 4 Young Achiever of the week -- a teenager superbly gifted in academics, activities, leadership and sports and with a resume jam-packed with community service and charity work that just got bigger because he got to travel.
In National Honor Society at Blue Valley West High School, president Joe Nail gets to combine two of his great passions -- leadership and community service. Joe's resume' is packed with both and at this meeting he announced an exciting new initiative for West's NHS members. He encouraged them to bring their own projects and resources to the group rather than relying on regular sponsors to come to them.
"I think the most important thing is really to see that you don't need to go within the preexisting boundaries of what's already there in terms of community service," said Joe.
Joe's been focused on leadership and service achievement for years now, amazing in someone still so young. And this summer he got to take a journey of discovery that enabled him to get even more creative and effective in doing that.
"Whatever you're interested in, there's certainly going to be a group of people somewhere else in the world that's interested in it," said Joe.
And Joe found just that when the U.S. State Department Youth Leadership Program sent him on a three-week, fully funded cultural and educational exchange trip to the Southeast Asian island nation of Indonesia -- one of only six U.S. high school students selected for that.
"When you have traveled to a distant area and seen things that you have not encountered before," said Joe's West High gifted education teacher Pam Fellingham, "I believe it just changes and shapes you to, number one, appreciate everything that you have but also to be able to identify problems, make a difference. And I think he has done just a beautiful job of that."
Joe wanted exposure to an entirely different culture -- and got it. And as a strong advocate for cancer causes, Joe was especially drawn to a small gem of a charity project and is now doing what he can to help Indonesia.
"I was already involved in Relay 4 Life (for the American Cancer Society) so when I went to Indonesia and I had the opportunity to interact with a cancer organization that was a natural fit," said Joe.
Anyo Indonesian Foundation, much like a Ronald McDonald House in The States, provides housing and food to poor Indonesians who must come to Jakarta, the capital city, to get treatment for their kids who have cancer. It was created by a woman who's own young son died of cancer.
"So when I heard her story, it no longer became a matter of if I would help but how I was going to help," said Joe. Returning to the U.S., Joe immediately launched his fund to help the cause, setting an initial goal of $2,500 to pay for 14 families for one year at Anyo. And his Indonesia experience left Joe determined to do even more.
"What I'm trying to do really is provide that spark, really, to bring in a whole different audience and raise awareness," said Joe. "I'm hoping to continue service projects including the ones I have but also probably as I hopefully travel more within the next few years, take on some more and really bring that to a college campus as well."
Joe also recently created another intriguing international service project, Hygiene Helping Humanity, to collect surplus personal care products and get them to a children's homeless shelter in Indonesia. The link for the online fundraising page he's established for the Anyo Indonesian Foundation Fund is http://www.gofundme.com/4tod1o.
Joe's email for individuals and schools interested in helping with the Hygiene Helping Humanity project is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.