By David Voegele
Executive director of Essex CHIPS

Gabriella Renee Woods is 12 years old. She is a sixth grade student in Essex. Her friends call her Coco or Gabby. Ten days ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with her at the Vermont Birdie Bash, where she was an enthusiastic player – and a trophy winner! As with most of the young people I have interviewed, I started by asking about favorite activities in school, and in what ways she felt school was supportive of her. “My favorite subjects are art, math, and PE,” Gabby stated. “I have learned a lot about people, history, math, science, art…the teachers and the school have been very supportive and kind for us. They…teach us how to be respectful… and showed us that they are always there to help us be the best we can – even when something goes wrong.”

Gabriella Renee Woods

I asked Gabby about her activities in the community. She responded, “Favorite activities outside of school are dancing, drawing, singing…and I love, love, love playing hockey!” In what ways does the community support youth and how can youth support the community, I wanted to know. Gabby said that Essex helped youth by “offering after-school activities for the kids when their parents can’t…because of work.” She stated further that youth can support the community by “… helping with fundraisers, helping with poverty awareness, being involved in local community events by giving volunteer time…helping our elderly citizens.”

When I asked Gabby about one of her role models, she told me about her grandmother. “She is kind, loving, respectful, outgoing, fun to be around…she is an entrepreneur and a go-getter.” Gabby also said that her grandmother has helped to build schools in less developed countries, and that she was a strong moral compass for her, teaching her what “is right and what is wrong, and to be honest.”

So what does the future hold for Gabriella Renee Woods? “I really want to be an interior decorator and an architect…to show how creative, smart and engineering I can be. Ever since I was a little girl I liked to build things.”  Gabby Woods – future architect and interior designer? With strong family role models, support from schools and the community, and her own enthusiasm and determination, I do believe these are goals she can achieve.