At the young age of 16, Amelia Hatley — a dedicated volunteer and Conway, South Carolina resident — radiates the powerful qualities of leadership and maturity in her church, community and school.
Amelia’s time volunteering is typically spent at St. Andrew Catholic Church and the Grand Strand Humane Society. However, Amelia also takes her time to the Eagle Crest Retirement Community and various service projects with her school.
Though born in Carmel, Indiana, Amelia feels that she was “practically born in Myrtle Beach,” as her family moved to the area when she was just two years old. Her father, Chad Hatley, is a life-long native and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. The Hatley’s deep ties to the beach don’t stop there — Amelia’s grandmother, Marilyn Hatley, presides over North Myrtle Beach as mayor and, as Amelia said, has “ever since I can remember.”
Taking her post in 2001, Mayor Hatley has played a tremendous role in leading Amelia down her path of service. Her work with the North Myrtle Beach Woman’s Club, as well as her active involvement with many other charitable organizations along the Grand Strand, has been extremely beneficial for the area.
“Part of being mayor comes with a lot of public responsibilities and a lot of involvement in your community,” Amelia said of her grandmother’s influence. “And when I was younger, I’d always watch her and go with her to things. I just really wanted to imitate that, and give back to my community in the way she does.”
A junior in Socastee High School’s International Baccalaureate program, Amelia feels that it’s “very important to be educated.”
“Education plays a huge role in my life. My family is very educated, and I have the desire to be,” Amelia said. Her mother, Lisa Wilcox, is a graduate of Indiana University and studied law at Oxford University in England. Amelia believes that her family’s influence and her drive to succeed in the classroom has guided her volunteerism outside of school: “I think the fact that I’m in love with school and I’m academically successful translates into my actions outside of school, and how I stick with volunteer work and excel at it.”
Work in Her Church and Community
Amelia spends Wednesday nights and Saturdays at St. Andrew Catholic Church helping to teach bilingual classes for the children. Her church is heavily populated with Spanish speakers, and a lot of the children don’t speak English at all. Amelia also helps with the confirmation class, which provides eighth graders with needed preparation before doing certain things in the church.
“I’ve been taking Spanish for almost eleven years. I’m not fluent, but I know enough to be able to talk and maintain a conversation,” she said regarding her time with the children. “Some can talk to me in English, but a lot of them talk to me in Spanish because they don’t know how to communicate otherwise. So, in a way, we’re teaching each other.”
When Amelia started teaching these classes in eighth grade, she already had nine years of Spanish under her belt. “But I was really nervous to teach the classes. I felt that I’d only had one solid year of Spanish, because many of the early years are learning the basic colors and numbers and stuff,” Amelia said.
She was worried about not being able to keep up, and in turn, confusing the children. However, she explained one of her first memories of the classes that inspired her to maintain her confidence when sharing her faith: “I remember, when I first taught it, I had a talk with this little girl and I could understand her, she could understand me, and I think that’s when I decided that I’d love to do mission work in other countries to benefit young children. That’s probably part of why I’ve stayed with it for so long, because — though it is a time constraint on my part — I just enjoy it so much. That conversation with that little girl, I will never forget it because it made me think that ‘oh my gosh, I can do this.’”
When asked what drew Amelia to becoming involved in helping the kids in her church, she illustrated the way that she wanted to give children the counsel she didn’t have. “I was always really lost in my faith, and I didn’t have a lot of guidance … and I just really liked the idea of participating in my faith while helping other kids. I feel like somebody as young as me — because a lot of people in my church are older — I feel like having somebody who’s younger tends to reach kids well,” she said.
And she claims that these classes don’t only help the students; they’ve aided her in gaining a new point of view when looking at life: “I feel like it really puts it into perspective how fortunate we actually are. I get to hear these kids talk to me about what’s happening at home. And that’s really great, to be a confidant for them, but it’s also amazing to put it into perspective and say, ‘wow, I’m really fortunate to have the life that I have.’”
And as for Amelia’s efforts to give back to the Humane Society and Eagle Crest Retirement Community, she explains the way that it started in middle school as a means for her to get service hours that she needed for school, and it’s developed into a personal connection.
She emphasizes the love she has for providing these organizations with a helping hand. “I really enjoy seeing the good that it does for people and for the animals. These are amazing places, and I really enjoy spending my time with them,” she said.
Amelia’s volunteerism began at a young age, largely influenced by the beliefs of her mother. “Growing up, my mom has always said, ‘you need to give back and provide service to other people.’ It’s always been a big thing in my household, to do that,” she said.
Her family-led heart is also driven to do good by her 6-year-old sister Macy and her 4-year-old brother Asher. Amelia explains the way that her brother’s down syndrome has encouraged her to be a light in the world and continue in her efforts to give back: “So, having Asher and everything and seeing his setbacks, and how he continuously overcomes them and to think that someone who has so many issues … I mean, he’s amazing. He’s always happy. He wakes up and he’s smiling. But, somebody who has so many issues, so many setbacks, and who had a rougher start, can be this happy and can always do their best makes me realize that I can do this. I can wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and go through my day, no matter how crappy I think it is. Because here Asher is, with all of his issues, doing the exact same thing. There’s no excuse. So I think he really does push me to be better. I guess he just makes me aim to be more successful every day.”
Messages to Share
Amelia’s opinions on volunteerism are simple: “I absolutely love it. It doesn’t even feel like volunteer work anymore, it’s just me being with family.”
She emphasized the importance of “personal alignment,” or understanding your goals and values so you can exceed your expectations. When asked what it would take to make the world a better place, she replied, “I think that self-awareness would be imperative, purely because sometimes we get really focused on what’s going on around us, and wanting to fix that, as opposed to looking at who’s causing these problems. Ourselves. Once you really align your purpose in life, and what you want to do, I think that you can move forward and be a benefit to society. Once you humble yourself, and take the perspective that you’re not the only person in the world, I feel like you can really grow as a person. After people do that, that spreads past themselves to other people.”
To the person who has never tried volunteering before, or doesn’t consider themselves a “volunteer person,” she says this: “I would tell them to go outside their comfort zone. When I started in sixth grade, I didn’t want to do it. And I took a jump. And I absolutely loved it! It gives you good moral character, or the foundation to build a character, which is very important. So, I would definitely say ‘go for it, give it a shot.’ If it’s not for you, that’s ok. But I would definitely try it. Time is precious. When you realize that you’re giving back to society, it’s really rewarding. Get out there!”