Unsung Heroes: Community Service its own reward for Marissa Kolinsky


Marissa Kolinksy volunteered for a cause last summer
Marissa Kolinksy volunteered for a cause last summer

“I really wanted to try something different for summer — I went to camp and then was a counselor — so my mom looked online for teen tours and community service,” New City resident Marissa Kolinsky said. When she found VISIONS Service Adventures, she said. “I saw the video on YouTube and liked it immediately.”

Last summer Kolinsky, 17, spent 15 days on the Gulf Coast with nine peers, renovating an historic home damaged in Hurricane Katrina and working with the Pascagoula River Audubon Society.

Overcoming challenges for the Clarkstown South High School senior — working on a ladder, using a drill and an electric screw gun — added to the trip’s positive experiences.

“I didn’t have experience being on a ladder, and all the counselors and friends were supportive,” she said. Another accomplishment was using a drill to replace old pieces of wood on a boardwalk over a swamp. “It took a few tries. Then the nail went in straight!” she said.

(left to right) Ian Thorne( California), Ashley Wong( China),  Lynh Tran (Washington), Leela Bettaglio(Minnesota ), Marissa Kolinsky
(l to r) Ian Thorne (California), Ashley Wong (China), Lynh Tran (Washington), Leela Bettaglio (Minnesota), Marissa Kolinsky

Working in the summer heat, the group made decoys for the Pascagoula River Audubon Society to help the birds. “It was really hot there,” she said. “And we did it!”

Fun was included. “We went to New Orleans for a day and saw costumes people wear at Mardi Gras,” Kolinsky said. A newcomer to the city, she felt “it was easy to become part of the culture as we walked around the town.”

A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Kolinsky belongs to Troop 40429 in West Nyack (part of Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson) and has been working on her Gold Award Project by refurbishing a Hebrew school classroom at Rockland County’s oldest synagogue, Sons of Jacob Congregation in Haverstraw.

“The Gold Award is the highest achievement and comparable to the rank of Eagle Scout,” Troop Leader Kathy Pritzker said. “Individuals have to show leadership hours, that they know how to manage finance and manage other people helping them.”

Kolinsky, who earned her Bronze Award in middle school and finished her Silver Award in ninth grade, raised about $2,600 to the delight and gratitude of temple secretary Judy Rappaport.

corner“Marissa’s redoing our classroom, everything from painting to redoing furniture and getting help from other people,” Rappaport said. “It’s very clean, and all things are in their place. It looks great. She wanted to make sure it’s done the right way and is looking for one or two more items as donations come in.”

Within the next few months Kolinsky will choose a college and explore options within the health field. The summer experience helped her become a different person, and she encourages teenagers to try new things since “you never know how amazing the experience will be when you do it. I learned with hard work and dedication, you can do anything.”

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