By Haley Weisgerber
Student of the Year is a philanthropic program that teaches students important leadership and business skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management. Each year, groups of students nationwide start campaigns to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Severn School sophomores Lilly Hughes and Sage Christensen led a campaign, nicknamed “Admirals in Action,” and raised $68,000 for LLS. Of all Maryland students who competed, the Admirals in Action were ranked third.
Lilly found out about Student of the Year after a family friend nominated her. Eager to take on the challenge, she enlisted Sage as her co-leader. They are the only Severn School students to start a campaign.
They enlisted the help of classmates Will Huber, Cole Keefer, Chloe Chabot, Will Dickinson, Skylar Kagan, Grace Cowell, Matthew Kagan, Taylor Boteler, Grace Curtis and Fionn Kinsella.
“I think our team was pretty close,” said Lilly. “I think we would have team meetings every week and I feel like not every other team would be able to do that since we all went to the same school.”
They ran weekly meetings to check in on how much the group had raised, how they were asking for donations, and other logistics. They also met with Corinne Mayers, the LLS campaign development director, who helped the team kick off the campaign.
“At first, it was a little nerve-wracking leading a campaign as a sophomore in high school, but it was really exciting to know that you were going to be taking such a big role,” said Lilly.
The group decided to focus on sponsorships and reaching out to individuals personally for donations. They wrote letters, presented their campaign to local businesses and made cold calls.
“We had a team that really showed off,” said Sage. “We had three team members who raised more than $5,000 and that was a lot. I don’t think many other teams have that, so that definitely helped a lot.”
Huber, Keefer and Chabot each raised $5,000 individually and earned extra recognition as members of the “5K Club.”
Lilly and Sage agreed that the most difficult part was learning to manage the group.
“Not only were we motivating ourselves, but we had to motivate our team,” said Lilly. “It’s hard being in high school and being busy with school and sports, and then telling your own classmates, ‘You need to do this.’”
The team’s original fundraising goal was $40,000, but the team did not slow down once they surpassed that goal. They established a healthy, internal competition between teammates and pushed one another.
“There’s no other feeling like it to see how much money we raised,” said Sage. “Especially because when you raise $50,000, you are allowed to direct your money to a certain cause within LLS. So that is great, because we can direct it to something we have a connection to. So we can literally just see the impact like so closely.”
The Admirals in Action have not decided where they would like to direct the money they raised, but they plan to make the decision with the entire team. Lilly and Sage do not know how involved in the campaign they will be next year, but they are excited to build upon the success.
“I think we kind of want to pass it on to somebody else in the Severn community, so that more people can become aware of this community and we can keep spreading the word because we had such a good experience,” said Lilly.