Alyssa Hayman never expected any of this.
She didn’t expect to volunteer so much, or to be recognized, at such a young age.
But now, after more than a decade of giving back to her community, the 15-year-old Steinbrenner High sophomore can’t picture her life any other way.
“My mom made me do it,” she said without hesitation. “She introduced me to Hope Children’s Home (in Citrus Park). I think I was about 5 years old, and we gave a lot of stuff away and had fun, too. Then, I was like, ‘I think I should keep doing this — it was fun!’”
But why would a teenager spend all her time volunteering, so much so that Hope Children’s Home is honoring her for her decade’s worth of service?
“Because the community needs it,” Hayman said with confidence. “I’ve been doing it since I was so young, so, why stop now?”
In just 10 years, Hayman has helped countless people.
She volunteers with both Feeding Tampa Bay and the Salvation Army, and has spent a decade helping scores of children at Hope Children’s Home — a live-in campus school that helps children without families to get through high school and onto college.
Hayman is being recognized on Nov. 10 by the children’s home for her service in a special ceremony. They are honoring the work she has done to arrange snack donations to be gathered regularly from hundreds of middle and high school students, and for her leadership on an annual donation drive for home goods needed to make sure children have a comfortable and secure place to stay.
The ceremony also will recognize her Warriors – Your Bright Futures Group, which she created back in elementary school, but has followed her to Steinbrenner.
It’s a group of like-minded peers and students who also take the time to volunteer in their community, specifically the Lutz and North Tampa areas, and to obtain service/volunteer hours for the Florida Bright Futures program.
The group, which began with just a handful of students, is now more than 400 strong.
“It’s anyone who is willing to come out and help,” Hayman said.
“(Being recognized by Hope Children’s Home is) very special to me because that’s never happened to me before and I never expected it,” she added. “It’s all very humbling. All I did was volunteer and have fun doing it.
“(Volunteering is) fun, because you get to help the communities, you get to help people and you get to see them smile. It’s rewarding, but it’s not always about that. It’s fun, but the community needs it.”
Hayman is also consistently involved in other projects and initiatives.
She’s a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, during the holidays, in front of the Publix Super Market at Lutz Lake Crossing. She also makes about 800 Christmas cards each year — for the elderly at Angels Senior Living at Idlewild and Brighton Gardens of Tampa.
Plus, she and her mom, Ann, participate in the annual Cheval Cares 5K, which raised more than $40,000 for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation in September.
“She’s very humble,” her mom said. “I like to brag about her, but she likes to keep it on the down low — ‘Oh, it’s no big deal. I’m just helping the community. I don’t like to make a big deal about it.’ And I know you don’t, but I do because the contagiousness about what you do, it gets to people.
“She doesn’t say anything about it on social media, but I do because I’m a proud mom and it gets other kids to want to help, as well.”
Ann admits she made Alyssa volunteer when she was 5 years old, but since then Alyssa’s desire to volunteer kept growing. When she was little, she could only do so much, but took on more roles as she got older.
She was involved in Safety Patrol in elementary school and student government in middle school. She began her student volunteer group at McKitrick Elementary, and took it with her to Martinez Middle and Steinbrenner High.
“As a teacher who taught middle school for 17 years,” said Lisa Quinn, Alyssa’s previous National Junior Honor Society advisor, “it is very impressive to see someone like Alyssa so willing to give her time to others through volunteering. … It is inspiring to see a young woman like Alyssa choose to spend her time helping others. There’s nothing wrong with typical middle school pursuits, such as hanging out with friends, but she has made it a priority to reach past that and make room in her life for service to others.”
Her mom adds: “It makes me very proud of her because she wants to do so much for so many in the community. She really didn’t know what she really wanted to do, but she took the initiative when she was really young and now just wants to help other children and people.”
So just how does Alyssa handle all the volunteer work?
With maturity no one expects.
“Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, but it never really does,” she said. “Mostly in my free time, I do homework, watch movies and hang with friends, so it’s a nice balance. … If there is ever an opportunity to help out more, I will.
“I just want to help, wherever I can.”
Published October 18, 2023