|American Heritage Academy senior Kaitlyn Witt is this year’s Verde Pride recipient in the Student of the Year category. VVN/Bill Helm|
COTTONWOOD - In 1990, Dr. Seuss wrote "Oh, the places you'll go," an illustrated children's book about life and its challenges.
One might think the good doctor wrote this book about Kaitlyn Witt.
As a part of their graduation requirements, high school seniors at American Heritage Academy in Cottonwood are required to complete a community outreach project. Viewing community in a global manner, Witt had always found India fascinating.
"That was in the back of my mind," said Witt, this year's Verde Pride recipient in the Student of the Year category. "[India] spoke to me. That's what I had to do."
For her project, Witt raised approximately $6,000 for two projects; to buy $100 foot pedal sewing machines for 30 widows at the Lighthouse Sewing School in India; and to create and host a four-day Girls of Faith Dance Camp for young girls living in poverty in India.
Witt has always had a heart for other people, her mother Cindy Witt said. "We are so proud of her."
Witt began planning her senior project during her junior year.
"When last year's seniors were starting their projects, I knew I didn't want to do something that was easy," Witt said. "I wanted to help people, not just because it was a requirement. I came up with so many ideas. But I've always loved India."
On November 16, 2013, Witt flew to India to complete the project.
"After traveling for 48 hours straight, we were greeted in the village with singing, garlands of flowers draped over our necks and yellow flower petals thrown into the air and on our heads to welcome us," Witt said. "The beautiful, smiling faces of the people, the vibrant colors of clothing and a sense of genuine love and community touched me.
"The ladies didn't know they were going to get sewing machines," Witt said. "Once it sunk in, they began to cry. And then I cried. All that hard work was worth it, seeing those ladies' faces."
According to Terra Rhinehart, office manager at American Heritage Academy, academics are very important to Witt. But the first thing Rhinehart sees in Witt is her personality.
"She's an extremely kind young lady," said Rhinehart, who also oversees the school's senior projects. "She always has a smile on her face, she's never disrespectful to our staff or other students. She's definitely deserving of this award, not just because of her senior project, but also because of her kindness and leadership, which we try to instill in our students here. They are our future leaders,"
Said Joshua Hinton, the school's U.S. government teacher, Witt is 'constantly worrying about how other people are doing and feeling, and is very careful to not offend anyone. She's someone that anybody can talk to."
Witt is now participating in the school's early college program, taking classes at Yavapai College after her first period U.S. government class. Witt has been accepted to attend Belhaven University where she plans to earn a double major in International Studies and Performing Arts in Dance. She hopes to one day live in a third world country and teach dance to children.
But before she leaves the Verde Valley in her quest for higher education, Witt will be required to pass American Heritage Academy's board of review for graduating students, an oral examination. One of the requirements is to recite a poem from memory.
Witt will recite, 'Oh, the places you'll go.'
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews