Saturday, May 25, 2002

Student wears many hats

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        MASON — People wonder who will fill the gaps left when Elizabeth Burke heads to college this fall.

        The Mason High School senior, called Liz by her family and friends, wears so many hats, some say it would require three people to replace her.

[photo] Mason High School senior Elizabeth “Liz” Burke (right) and Western Row third-grader Angel Flores discuss Angel's school project at the Mason Public Library.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Helping others is not just something Ms. Burke does to get extra credit at school or win the approval of friends. It's an essential part of her life.

        Just her work in the Helpers of People Everywhere (HOPE) program at the school takes hours each week. As president this year, Ms. Burke worked hard to help increase membership from 10 to 50, and she helped with the annual food drive for Thanksgiving and the annual winter clothing drive to benefit needy families. Ms. Burke also planned and launched a balloon drive, “Soaring Sympathies,” to raise money for Sept. 11 families.

        HOPE recently raised about $10,000 for scholarships with the Shelley Marshall Memorial Walk, named after a Mason High School guidance counselor who died in March 2001.

        And as part of the Forget Me Not program at Mason Christian Village retirement community, Ms. Burke “adopted a grandfather” and spent hours with him every week reading, talking and laughing, until his death last year.

        In addition, Ms. Burke, who works part time at Kroger in Mason, tutors two children. She began tutoring through Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Warren and Clinton Counties last year. Then, when her Spanish teacher asked for a volunteer to help a second-grade Hispanic boy who was having trouble keeping up in school, Ms. Burke didn't hesitate. She tutored him last year, through the summer and during this school year.

        Ms. Burke also befriended the boy's parents and helped them fill out papers for insurance and other necessities, and she made numerous phone calls to help find doctors and a Spanish-speaking dentist. She hopes to get them into a program to learn English before she goes to college.

        Ms. Burke, 18, daughter of Mike and Lorrie Burke, is in charge of community service for Mason Community Church youth group. Through that group and HOPE, she has lent a hand at such places as the Peaslee Neighborhood Center and other community centers in Over-the-Rhine. One visit prompted her to have a linen drive for the center through HOPE.

        Last June, Ms. Burke spent a week in Mexico on a mission to clean two orphanages and help the children, plus repair houses, schools and a church.

        “Liz is one of the most selfless, amazing teen-agers I've ever met,” says Monica Schneider, HOPE adviser.

        “She completely goes out of her way to fill the needs of others, and she does a great job of it. It's not a burden to her. It's not an extra thing. It's just what she believes she's supposed to do.”

        Ms. Burke, who will enter Kent State University's nursing program this fall, explains: “I don't look at this as community service. I just look at it as helping people. I just love doing anything I can to make someone else's life better.

        Do you know a Hometown Hero — someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at or fax to 755-4150.


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