SCARBOROUGH — Some people are born to serve, and Scarborough High School senior Katie Elliott is one of those people.
As a sixth-grader, she donated 10 inches of her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hair pieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
“I loved the way I felt after having helped someone less fortunate,” Elliott recalled.
She has continued to make an impact, assisting in activities at her church, for example, and working in a soup kitchen. “I was inspired to challenge myself, and I decided that I wanted to do something more,” she said.
A can-do “A” student, Elliott wasted little time in creating an outlet where she could “do something more:” She launched Driving Force, an organization dedicated to collecting items for nonprofit groups in greater Portland.
Elliott turned to an energetic pool of contributors: her fellow students. “I wanted to make volunteering part of their lives,” she explained, demonstrating wisdom well beyond her years.
Last November, Driving Force made a delivery of wish-list goods to its first recipient, the Ronald McDonald House. “They were surprised because I hadn’t called them first,” she recalled. “That was a learning experience, so now I always contact the organization first.”
Elliott selected the Salvation Army as the second monthly Driving Force project. “I set up a table in the cafeteria and we collected 237 books to give to teenagers in southern Maine,” she said.
The Preble Street soup kitchen was the third recipient of Driving Force’s largesse. Elliott collected nearly 50 pounds of pasta and sauce from her peers to donate to Preble Street.
Other projects followed: The Center for Grieving Children received notebooks, paper towels, and other items. The Animal Refuge League received more than $200 from the proceeds of ribbon sales. The Lighthouse Shelter received toothbrushes. A prom raffle netted more than $150 for the Children’s Miracle Network.
In addition to making a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of people, including her fellow students, Elliott’s entrepreneurial efforts began to draw wider recognition. This past June she was named Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen, and she represented Maine in the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant in Orlando in August.
She was also one of only 200 students out of 35,000 nominees to receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program. Winners were selected on the basis of initiative, leadership, generosity, and project benefits and outcome.
Elliott’s service activities extend beyond the wide reach of Driving Force: she was chosen by her fellow students to serve as one of two student representatives on the Scarborough School Board.
“The students ask a lot of questions that the adults might not think to ask,” she noted.
In her not-so-spare time, Elliott serves as a tri-captain of the Scarborough High School Mock Trial Team. This experience should prepare her well for her long-term career goal, to be a criminal prosecutor.
Dean Auriemma, principal of Scarborough High School, marveled at Elliott’s success.
“Katie is a service-above-self kind of person, driven by a light from within. She makes great choices; she’s honest with herself; she’s not afraid to do the right thing; and she doesn’t back down,” Auriemma said. “It’s been a joy to have her in the building.”
When asked how she would liked to be remembered at the end of her life, Elliott said,“I’d like to be known as a person who always tried her best to help other people.”
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: email@example.com.
Scarborough High School senior Katie Elliott is the founder of Driving Force, a student organization that collects wish-list goods for nonprofits in greater Portland.