Jefferson Award winner urges community outreach to Lowcountry students

Emily Hoisington, Jefferson Awards winner.jpg

Dozens of students involved in service projects from nine different Lowcountry schools were honored at North Charleston City Hall on Friday as part of the Jefferson Awards, a national foundation that honors volunteerism and service work.

On Friday, they were inspired by a young woman who started serving others before she graduated from high school.

There's a simple saying that empowers Emily Hoisington that's served as a lifeline through her darkest days.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others," she told the students. "I just knew that's who I was and just because one part of me was gone doesn't mean this part of me was gone."

Hoisington founded Charleston Hope, a local nonprofit serving Lowcountry kids

"We ended up adopting 40 students that first year as a senior in high school, to my freshman year in college we adopted 900 students," she said.

On Friday, she gave back even more by sharing her story with high school students from nine area schools who were called to not only help but motivate as well.

"I never would have imagined that just by giving you can become so invested, you can just have so much love for what you do and where you give back," Hoisington said.

The Jefferson Awards students in action program is relatively new to most schools. Its aim is life-long service, and targets teenagers as a perfect key to success.

"It's not always the most popular thing to do," said student Abigail Elsey. "People want to go to the parties not volunteer at the soup kitchen so it's been really fun to have a group of kids who are interested in doing the things that I'm doing."

"It's so heartwarming to realize these kids have values and they have a heart and they have a concern and they see the big picture," said Dr. Joseph Pye, the superintendent for Dorchester County.

For Hoisington, it was Ghandi's call for service that enabled her to push through the sudden death of her longtime boyfriend, College of Charleston basketball player Chad Cooke.

She told the story to the students on Friday.

"So I read that quote to her and she said, 'Alright, get up. Schedule a meeting with a Title I school, we're going to do something,'" Hoisington said. "Your dreams and stuff are deferred right now but your passion is still here."

And her story is now going to be shared on a national level as she represents the Lowcountry at the Jefferson Awards national ceremony in Washington D.C. this summer.

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