“You should be involved in your community because everyone has something to give. When everyone is involved, even just a little bit, our world becomes a better place to live,” says Emilia Loren Castelao, a senior at Lusher Charter School.
Castelao’s most rewarding experience so far has been Camp Able, a week-long summer session for kids with disabilities. The camp is located within Camp Hardtner in Pollock, Louisiana.
“Camp Hardtner is a special place where you can be the best version of yourself, and this past year I was paired with Joey,” says Castelao.
“The entire week we worked on his act for the talent show, which was singing ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and watching him express himself in ways he maybe can’t do at home and in school was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Following Hurricane Irma, Castelao joined a mission trip to Cuba. Over the course of a week, Castelao worked in Holguin where she picked up debris and distributed supplies. A lot of her activism revolves around Cuba and bringing attention to the struggles the locals face in that country.
“The ear-to-ear smile that people had on their faces when giving them basic things such as toothpaste gave me a realization: no one should have to worry about things such as where there is clean water or where they’re going to get their next meal,” says Castelao.
During the trip, she stayed with a family that made 28 pesos a month, but five liters of clean water costs 30 pesos. Even though the family had their own struggles, they opened their door to Castelao. The experience taught her strength, passion and kindness. “I live in a world that needs to change, and this trip allowed me to be a part of that change,” she says.
Castelao is also involved with the National Honor Society, where she’s the head of tutoring. (The NHS offers free tutoring for fellow students at Lusher.) She also volunteers with the Diocesan Youth Leadership Committee for the Eastern Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana and the Youth Group at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church.
Castelao plans to attend University of Notre Dame as a Posse Scholar, where she plans to study Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies. When not volunteering or in school, she enjoys camping, watching movies, graphic design and guitar. She hopes to join the Peace Corps and work with nonprofit organizations.