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Rosalie DeAstis // Features Editor

 Student Ambassador, Honors student, soccer player, saxophone tutor, Forever 21 sales associate – you can say 19 year-old Taylor Panczyk, better known as Valencia to family and friends, has a lot on her plate. Most of us might say we’d be going crazy by this point, but Panczyk even makes the time to put volunteering and service at the top of her agenda.

“My parents dropped me off at the shelter thinking it was a joke,” said Panczyk, describing her first time volunteering Christmas morning, at only 14 years old.

“I was by myself, and they thought I was going to call them within an hour to come pick me up.”

Photo by Tabrez Khan

Photo by Tabrez Khan

While most kids stay home to open presents and watch the parade on TV, Panczyk ended up helping out at the shelter for five hours, and enjoyed every minute of it.

“It just really opened my eyes. Like, wow this is Christmas. People are supposed to be getting what they want and all these people want is warm chowder.”

The aspiring Neurosurgeon grew up in Naperville with her two younger siblings. At Neuqua Valley High School, she was involved in soccer, softball, AP classes, the theatre and music program. Neuqua Valley works with Alliance for the Children every year, an organization that provides for young people in need. Panczyk’s sophomore year, the child she was to help out requested a tie blanket. Her junior year, a child had requested the same thing.

“It made me wonder how many children need blankets. So my senior year, I started to make this a big deal.”

Panczyk began collecting donations from family and friends in order to make as many tie blankets as possible to donate to Alliance for the Children.

“[My friends and I] collected enough donations to make 70 blankets [that year],”

“It was such a good moment in my life.”

Since then, Panczyk has been keeping the blanket making a tradition and is exited to bring “Layers of Love” to the college.

“This is a time of giving back. It all inspires you to be a better person.”

She will be doing bake sales every Monday and Wednesday starting Nov. 25 outside of the campus Starbucks, to earn money for the materials needed, along with donations from family and friends. Currently the 24 Student Ambassadors at the college are running the event, but Panczyk is trying to get as many students involved as possible. The fleece blankets will be donated to local shelters and Chicago hospitals.

“I’d love see to this become an annual thing at COD,” said Panczyk, who hopes that the tradition lives on after she transfers out next year.

“It doesn’t matter if it becomes a club or not. As long as it happens every year.”

Valencia will be transferring to University of Notre Dame, University of Illinois or University of Alabama next year, and is happy with her experience at the college so far.

“I admit was a little apprehensive at first, but it really is a wonderful school. There are so many opportunities to get involved and there’s definitely a  ‘one on one feel’ in the classroom.”

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  • Published: 8 months ago on November 21, 2013
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  • Last Modified: November 21, 2013 @ 8:18 pm
  • Filed Under: Features, Spotlight

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