Jesse Lee ASP is excited to announce that the winner of the 2018 John Ward Love in Action Award is Gillian Retter, a recent graduate of Ridgefield High School and a 4-year participant of Appalachia Service Project.
Gillian’s ASP experience started her freshman year when she was living in southern California. Her church there traveled to Rutherfordton, in Rutherford County, North Carolina. “That week,” she says, “I found myself doing work I had never done with kids I didn’t know very well. One thing I did know, though, was that I had found something I loved.”
When her family moved to Ridgefield later that summer, “I found Jesse Lee, and immediately fell in love with its youth group and huge ASP program. Since then, I have gone on ASP each summer.” She served with us in Knott County, Kentucky, in 2016, and Wise County, Virginia, in 2017. This year, Gillian will be serving in Leslie County, Kentucky.
Her service to others extends beyond Appalachia. She has traveled to Belize with J:OLT, Jesse Lee’s high school group, to help build an elementary school. She is a member of the Unity Club and is a student volunteer for the Names Day anti-bullying assembly, and she volunteers with Meal on Wheels. But she is perhaps most excited about her work with Special Olympics. “I volunteer as a swim helper a few times a week, and it brings me immense joy,” she says, adding that the Special Olympians have taught her authentic love and happiness. “I have been blessed with the ability to interact with people with whom I may not always interact. I have been exposed to the intense reality that we’re not really that different.”
Gillian is a competitive swimmer with the Ridgefield Aquatic Club, a member of the RHS Girls Varsity Swim Team, and belongs to the National Honor Society. As she looks ahead to the fall, she plans to attend Seattle University, majoring in Chemistry on the pre-med track. We are very pleased to present her with the John Ward Award.
The John Ward Love in Action Award was established by Jesse Lee ASP in 2017 to honor John Ward’s 30th Appalachia Service Project Trip. It is a $1000 grant given each year to a high school senior who has participated in ASP and dedicated themself to other forms of community service.
Winners of the John Ward Award have been:
- 2018 – Gillian Retter
- 2017 – Petros Papadopolous