2018 winner of Hastings community service award shares surprise, gratitude

By Journalism I student Summer P, ’21

Grant Overmyer won the 2018 Robert E. Lewis Memorial award at the end of his 8th grade year at Hastings MIddle School.

Grant Overmyer won the 2018 Robert E. Lewis Memorial award at the end of his 8th grade year at Hastings MIddle School.

Sitting on the stage among the other class officers, poised and proper for the sea of parents and students before him, former eighth grade vice president Grant Overmyer watches the podium with his undivided attention. The woman at the front of the stage reads off the winner’s accomplishments and achievements with the utmost respect in her voice.

Overmyer politely sits back, listening to her talk. As she rattles off different accomplishments and achievements the winner wrote about in his or her entry form, he assumes his longtime friend, Vivian Lawless, will be the recipient of the award. Even though he was one of the 15 candidates, he never thought of himself as the top candidate.

But, as the speaker said a few final words, wrapping up her meandering speech, Overmyer noticed her alluding to his volunteer work. Suddenly fixated on her words, he realized she was talking about him. His community service. His academics achievements. His entry form.

As this realization hit, the woman at the front of the stage exclaimed, “Will Grant Overmyer please come up to accept the 2018 Robert E. Lewis Memorial award!” Rising from his seat, he stood looking out at the crowd, speechless.

Years of determination and hard work came together for freshman Grant Overmyer at the 2018 Hastings Eighth Grade Graduation, where he was given the Robert E. Lewis Memorial Award. The award recognized Overmyer for his outstanding achievements in academics, leadership, athletics, behavior, and, most notably, his community service. With this award, Hastings pays homage to former principal Robert Lewis and praises students who have a good work ethic and strive for excellence.

Overmyer’s passion for community service began at the young age of 11 when he started volunteering for Wendy’s Gymnastics & Fitness for Children. He was inspired to work there because as a kid, he visited the facility. Later, the employees reached out and asked if he would be willing to volunteer. He agreed, but, when he first starting working there, he saw it only as a means to get the 10 required service hours.

“Well, I started working in … like sixth grade at Wendy’s Gymnastics and Fitness for Children,” he said. “ That’s when I was like, ‘Hey, this is really fun!’ because that’s where I got all of my service hours”

As his time volunteering there progressed, he grasped the full meaning of community service; not to meet a school requirement, but to give back. After his realization that helping others is “Fun, and it makes you feel good afterwards,” Overmyer’s service hours skyrocketed from the mandatory 10 hours in sixth grade to over 100 in eighth.

He got the majority of these hours from Wendy’s Gymnastics & Fitness for Children, Hastings Outreach Program, also known as HOP day, and from a homeless shelter. He worked at the homeless shelter around Christmas time and gave away clothes to those who came in; “A lot of [the 100 service hours] was from Wendy’s-not the restaurant, the gymnastics place-and HOP day, and I worked at a homeless shelter around Christmas time, where they would come in and get new clothes.”

Not only has Overmyer excelled in service; he also has an impressive track record in athletics and leadership. In middle school, he was captain of the track and football team, and he was a part of the B.E.A.R.S. group. The members of this group were chosen by teachers, faculty members, and other students at Hastings.

According to Overmyer, B.E.A.R.S. stands for “bringing empathy, acceptance, and respect schoolwide. It’s a kindness group that works to eliminate bullying at Hastings and tries to make the school a positive place for everyone.

After such monumental success in middle school, one would expect that same success in high school. However, Overmyer proves that even for honorary students, the transition between schools can be challenging.

“In middle school, I got along with all of my teachers, but now half of my teachers hate me. Which is fine, but it’s not fine,” he said, joking about his apparent rough relationship with teachers. “It’s just a big transition, and it’s a lot more work. You’re more dependent on yourself at the high school.”

He also shows that there is an expected learning curve when it comes to high school, and it can take time to become accustomed to the workload, teacher, and assessments. It’s not unusual to perform badly on a quiz or test when first entering high school, and Overmyer was open about his own grade struggles, saying, “I failed my first quiz this year.”

But, there is always a silver lining, and for him, it comes with the newfound independence and cafeteria food; “The food is fine…  I like the freedom.”

Overmyer also has advice for middle school and high school students who want to get involved with community service, but are unsure as to how. His most basic tip is to search for volunteering opportunities online. “Look up online. Just say like, ‘Volunteer,’ and [you’ll] definitely find things to do,” he said.

If that doesn’t yield many results, he suggests going to a counselor for help; “Going to a counselor would really help you because I think [he or she] would have more options on what you could do in the school.”

While he usually prefers meeting with people in person to talk about community service jobs, he understands how intimidating that can be to a student. So, he recommends first making contact through email. The email should schedule a time to talk and explain what the meeting will be about.  

“Well, to contact them, you’d probably email them and say, ‘This is what I want to talk about,” he explained. “then [when you first meet them] say, ‘Hi, my name is Grant,’ and they’ll just be like, ‘Oh yes! Hi.’ And you guys will just talk about what you could do.”

That, however, is not the most important thing to know about community service according to Overmyer. He wants everyone, student or not, to remember that “any volunteer work is usually good volunteer work [because] you’re helping somebody.” Even the smallest act of community service benefits someone.

Perched atop the stage, Overmyer looks at the students-the other nominees-before him. He looks at the parents in the back of the auditorium. Staring at his feet, his happiness falters. Walking up to the announcer, he stretches out a hand and puts a smile on his face. I feel guilty, he thought. I didn’t do my volunteer work for a reward. The other nominees-the ones who were working towards this award-deserve something, too.

Whenever he reflects on the middle school graduation day, Overmyer obviously remembers his feelings of accomplishment and success. But, looking back, he also has feelings of guilt.

He knows there were other students who had been working towards the Robert E. Lewis Memorial award; they had volunteered and done their community service so they could win. Overmyer, on the other hand, volunteered after the realization that doing so gave him a sense of fulfillment and was uplifting. So, he feels guilty about winning the award because he didn’t do his volunteer work for a reward. He did it simply because he enjoyed it.

But, even with his guilt, he accepted the award with grace and gratitude and is thankful for it. Overmyer has nothing but sympathy for the other candidates and thinks they all could’ve won.

“Some other kids deserved it, too,” he said, “I think that all of the other candidates were worthy of the award, and they definitely all could’ve gotten it.”