Youth Service Award Winners
Welcome 9 Philanthropy 9 Youth Community Service Awards 9 Youth Service Award Winners

Grace Boyden, a Senior at Hilton Head Island High School, has been involved in community service since 6th Grade.

A recipient of the Hilton Head Mayor’s Youth Community Service Award for multiple years, Grace feels that service is “giving of time and talents to better the situation of an individual or a community as a whole.” Her volunteer work includes the Hilton Head Humane Society, Deep Well Project, Eucharistic Minister and teaching Sunday school at her church, and 2nd & 7. Grace took the initiative to start the 2nd & 7 reading program in the HHI community.

It was through her “natural leadership skills”, fellow athletes were inspired to join her in this initiative. Through 2nd & 7, Grace read books to second grade classrooms with the intent of stopping illiteracy and creating positive role models for the children. In addition, as President of the HHI HS’s National Honors Society, she organized drives for the Ronald McDonald House and Deep Well Project. Grace intends on pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing at Clemson University.

She stated “I desire to help those in need in any way I can as I pursue a nursing career and the impact I have made through the volunteer opportunities I have participated in during high school have inspired me to do so.”


Ella Christie, a Senior at Hilton Head High School, stated she was “ecstatic” when she was finally able to devote time to her community through Beta Club in 7th Grade.

This began her years of service to the Hilton Head Island community. “Being able to physically see the positive impact of dedicated time granted me with a gift I had yet to receive: altruistic joy. This was the first time I ever experienced joy from simply giving up a few hours of my own schedule.” Through the different honor societies at her school, Ella had opportunities to serve organizations such as the Local Gullah Foundation, Neighborhood Outreach Program, Project Unify, and Morgan’s Message. Morgan’s Message is a national organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health within the student/athlete community.  

Ella feels that “Morgan’s Message (MM) is a key part of the person I am.”  Her role as a Student Ambassador for MM helped create a chapter at HHI HS to promote awareness of the importance of positive mental health and to invite anyone in the student body to become involved and be heard. Ella has been accepted by numerous universities. She plans to major in Biology and minor in Psychology.

Ella’s career goal is to become a pediatrician to” make a difference in the lives of young individuals with special needs.”

Emilie Fister, a Senior at Hilton Head Island High School, began her involvement in community service in middle school through Beta Club.

It became her passion during her sophomore year when she joined the sports medicine team and was asked to volunteer for youth sports camps. Through this experience, she felt “enormous gratification helping young people find a love of sports.” Her experiences taught her “patience with others, empathy, and kindness.”

A recipient of the “Mayors Call to Service Award” years in a row, Emilie has volunteered her time through Sports Medicine, Main Stage Community Theater, Pockets Full of Sunshine, Special Olympics and various honor societies at her school. After high school graduation, she would like to pursue a major in Kinesiology and a minor in Nutrition at one of three universities, Florida, Kentucky or Tennessee.

Emily stated, “Service is not just about the act of helping others. True community service is giving back and learning through these experience…You never know the impact you could make on someone’s life and how your simple acts of service could change someone’s life for the better.”

Susana Mogil, a Senior at Hilton Head High School, feels that “service is more than simply giving your time to help someone…but rather the notion people can improve each other’s lives by working together without any incentive besides progress and community.”

Susana’s hundreds of service hours through the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) and the Congregation at Beth Yam (CBY) helped her discover her “superpower in (her) life; the “ability to encourage others to appreciate their innate talents.” A recipient of the Principal’s Award for Community Service, Susana also volunteered her time through various honor societies at her school as a bi-lingual tutor at the Neighborhood Outreach Center and through Next Gen Tutoring at the IB Elementary and Creative Arts School.

She has held leadership positions through the NJROTC as an officer and Color Guard Commander and as the Costume Manager and Assistant Stage Manager for the theater company at HHI HS. After high school graduation, Susana hopes to continue “to inspire and empower future generations through language education.” She will pursue a double major in education and Spanish to become a bi-lingual Spanish immersion teacher and (teach) Spanish and English worldwide.”

Susana plans to attend either Washington, University of South Carolina or the University of Colorado Boulder; schools with reputable programs that will provide her with “the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in (her) field.”

Garrett Simmons, a Senior at Hilton Head High School, began his commitment to volunteering and community service at a young age.

He ran a lemonade stand with his sister and then took the money and food donations to the Hilton Head Humane Society. Garrett stated “my mom said it would make us feel good to help, and I wanted to continue to do it.” In one of his letters of recommendation, Garrett was described as an “All Star” with “extraordinary leadership skills and a deep compassion for all people.”

Through his school and in the community, Garrett has volunteered hundreds of hours of service with the Rotary Club, at the Bayshore Retirement Community, Unify Service Club and Pockets Full of Sunshine. Each Saturday at Bayshore, Garrett is available to assist residents with technology issues such as learning to use a cell phone or fixing broken equipment. His volunteer role evolved when he became the Life Enrichment Coordinator because of his ability to “connect easily with older adults” and treat them with respect. Garrett feels that his “biggest contribution to the community” is a project he developed called “Making Birthdays Bright.”

While participating in the Chamber Junior Leadership Program, Garrett learned that many families in the community struggle with basic needs like food, rent and utilities. After participating in a food drive, Garrett decided he wanted to do more. He created a birthday box which included everything needed for a family to celebrate a birthday. He did local fundraising and solicited donations for the items in the box. Garrett collaborated with Pockets Full of Sunshine to enable special needs adults to pack and decorate the boxes. So far, more than 400 boxes have been delivered to food banks. After graduation, Garrett will attend Duke University where he will pursue a degree in political science and public policy. Following college, he plans to attend law school to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a legislator or judge.

Garrett wants his “career to be focused on improving collaboration at the national and local levels to ensure our communities and societies can be better designed to serve the needs of everyone.”

Payton Ward, a Senior at Cross Schools, feels “service means to care for others above and beyond while growing your confidence in the ability to do great things as well.”

A recipient of the Town of Bluffton’s Mayor’s Service Award, Payton has contributed over 100 hours of service to the community. Her volunteer work includes the Palmetto Animal League (PAL), Cat Care Volunteer Lead at PAL, Low Country Alliance for Healthy Youth, Teens for Healthy Youth and various volunteer opportunities with the Town of Bluffton. In one of her letters of recommendation, Payton was described as “an excellent role model for those around her” because of her “maturity, compassion, and eloquence.” Payton’s “love for service” inspired her to promote awareness for cyberbullying and its impact on youth mental health.

She created and published two different projects. One project was an informational card on the dangers of cyberbullying and how to take action in the community. She then wrote an article on the same topic that was published in the October edition of the Bluffton Sun. Following graduation, Payton will attend the College of Charleston pursuing a double major in Political Science and English. After college, she plans to attend law school.

Payton stated “I feel I am my best when I am actively working to serve others while exploring new possibilities in myself. To me, I believe true joy would be found in a profession that not only helps my community but also teaches me something new every day.”