Hayden teen honored as volunteer

During the trials and tribulations of growing up, it helps to have a "cool" and committed mentor -- a big sister of sorts to give advice about friends, school and peer pressure.

Chantal Gregory, 18, has filled that important role for her seventh-grade partner, Becca, in the Partners in Routt County program.

A recent graduate of Hayden High School, Gregory easily could occupy herself with college plans, friends, making money and the final weeks of summer. But volunteering, especially in youth-related organizations, is an integral part of her personality and outlook on life.

"I love the fresh enthusiasm that children carry with them," she said. "I enjoy spending time with them."

The Yampa Valley Community Foundation recently honored Gregory with the 2005 Youth Philanthropist award for her dedication to children.

In addition to her work in the Partners program, Gregory has coached youth soccer and taught Spanish classes to elementary students in the Totally Kids program. She's also been a counselor at a sixth-grade science camp and helped with an annual haunted house through Hayden's Community Action Network.

Her love for children perhaps is best evidenced at Christmastime, when she has dressed up as an elf to pass out candy.

"Young people usually don't have a lot of money to give, but they can make a choice of their use of time," said Linda Haltom, executive director of YVCF.

Time is something Gregory gives freely. In the Partners program, for example, she commits to spending an average of three hours a week for a year with her partner.

She regularly beats that average, Partners case worker Libby Foster said.

"She's a really devoted senior partner, which is pretty amazing since she just finished high school," Foster said.

Having a young adult to look up to is particularly important for children who have single parents and are looking for relevant advice about the typical stresses of adolescent life, she said.

"Chantal's got amazing young energy, and she's cool. ... That cool factor means a lot," Foster said.

In addition to children's programs, Gregory also has been active in Future Business Leaders of America and the Hayden chapter of the El Pomar Youth in Community Service Program, in which students raise money and then dole out grants to nonprofit projects of their choice.

This fall, Gregory will attend Mesa State College, where she will major in social work and minor in Spanish.

"The activities I have been involved with have guided my choice of study because I have found out how much I enjoy working with people of all types and ages," she said.

The Partners in Routt County Program is seeking mentors to work with children throughout the county. If interested, call 879-6141.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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