As you meet Olive Branch teenager Marybeth Griffin and hear about all the activities and things the high schooler is involved in, you may quickly ask yourself, “How does she find the time for it all?”
Marybeth, daughter of Anthony and Amanda Griffin of Olive Branch, is active in the Interact Club, Olive Branch High School Color Guard, the Beta Club, Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, Best Buddies program with youngsters that have special needs, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Olive Branch Pep Squad. She does all this while carrying an academic grade-point-average of 4.25.
That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Oh, did I not include all that she does with the Family YMCA of Olive Branch? Well, sit down, because we’ve got another long list to go through.
Griffin being involved in the YMCA is especially important to her, since it was the YMCA that helped get her settled into a new home when the family moved from Murfreesboro, Tenn. about eight years ago. It is also because of her involvement that she was named to the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South Outstanding Youth Award during an awards celebration held last week at Graceland in Memphis.
“Part of it is that I love the community,” said Griffin. “They adopted me when we moved here because I was in fourth grade and it was a very awkward time period. Moving to the Y was one of those things that just helped me out and grow me as a person. I bettered myself and I thought, ‘why not give back to the community that I grew up with?’”
The Outstanding Youth Award among the 11 YMCA locations in the Memphis metro area is given to someone under age 19 who is actively involved in a YMCA program, has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to serving others and the community. The award is presented to someone who also exhibits the YMCA core values in life and service activities.
Now to the list. Griffin is a member of the Teen Leaders Club, and volunteers for things like Kids Night Out, Dive In Movies, Healthy Kids Day celebrations, Trunk or Treat events, youth dance mentoring, and is a hostess for the Y’s Senior Adult Prom event.
“I swim, I work out and I volunteer pretty much anytime they need me,” she said.
Griffin has also worked with the Y’s SNAAP program, which stands for Special Needs Athletics and Aquatics Program. Free of charge to all participants, SNAAP is a class open to children with special needs that has water-based and land-based activities, along with group exercise. Griffin said being in SNAAP has helped her decide what she wants to do in life.
“I want to be a pediatrician with a specialty in special needs kids,” she said. “It’s so gratifying seeing kids with happy faces and knowing that the Y and me helped contribute to that.”
When asked more about why she does all that she does around school and with the YMCA, Griffin said she looks forward to showing other youngsters how to impact their world and future.
“If I can be a role model for other kids, I can show teens who may be just playing video games or not finding a purpose right now there are so many options. You don’t have to do everything I do, but you are able to get out there and give back. That’s something I find very appealing.”
Mike Cunningham, the executive director of the Olive Branch Family YMCA, said it was a no-brainer when asked to nominate someone for the award, adding the entire family is active. Marybeth’s mother Amanda is on the Board of Directors.
“We need more Griffins around the Y,” Cunningham said. “It’s a family affair with the Griffins. Her older sister had the same approach with the Y, volunteering her time and talents. It’s also helped them, in that with moving to a new area, it got them engaged and that’s what the Y is all about.”
“I couldn’t be more proud,” added Amanda. “I think the only way for her to get out and experience life is by being a volunteer. I’m proud of her.”
Marybeth said she will continue working and volunteering at the YMCA, because as she said, “The whole thing is about helping out and giving back. That’s why I am a part of it.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.