Santa Ynez Valley Youth in Service Award honoree Isabella Hartley is an Advanced Placement Scholar at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, a dancer, a regular performer with the high school’s theatre, and a part-time dog walker and babysitter, but she still finds time to volunteer in her community and internationally.
Her trick to managing it all: “Weighing what’s important to you.”
“There are times I feel stressed and overwhelmed, but I think if you’re really interested in what you’e doing and feel like what you’re doing has worth, it’s never too overwhelming. It takes a lot of time to dedicate your time to an organization, but it’s about loving what you’re doing,” Hartley said.
According to her nomination for the award by Tresha Sell, “She is a well rounded thoughtful and caring young lady who is always ready to lend a helping hand.”
Now a senior, Hartley has already begun managing her time along the lines of a professional schedule.
“I have an incredible group of friends, but during the school week, that’s like my work week. It’s all about academics and conference calls for my volunteer activities. After school is for homework and performing and doing what I love. Then, on the weekend, it’s definitely about getting in the social. That’s my free time to use as I want to use it,” Hartley said.
Hartley began dance lessons at the age of 5, and recently played the lead role in her high school theatre’s production of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”
Her volunteer efforts began when she was a high school freshman. She served as stage manager and fulfilled other needed duties with Arts Outreach over the summer months.
The following year, she discovered American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad (AYUDA), an international program focused on providing diabetes management for youth and their parents within the cultural constraints of diet and individual exercise limitations.
The program is a perfect fit for Hartley, who aspires to become a pediatrician.
“I have a friend with diabetes, and hearing the difference between her day-to-day lifestyle and mine, it became something really important to me,” Hartley said.
As a volunteer with AYUDA, Hartley traveled to the Dominican Republic where, in conjunction with the local partner organization Aprendiendo A Vivir, she helped plan and implement community outreach projects, volunteered in a Santo Domingo hospital, and worked with her peers to run Campo Amigo Dominicano, a weekend diabetes education family program.
“Medicine is something I know I’d love to do, and I think a lot of that comes from working with AYUDA,” Hartley said.
Hartley hopes to attend a small liberal arts college on the East Coast as she forges ahead on life’s adventure.
“I love the fact that you can have such close relationships with your professors on a smaller campus, and the education they provide seems so much more complete than at a big school,” Hartley said.
With youthful exuberance and cheerful disposition, Hartley sounds like she has it all together, but she said it doesn’t come easy.
“You really have to weigh what’s important to you. You have to know where to draw the line. You have to know that your mental health is more important than any grade on any paper. It really is a balancing act of what will further your future and what will help you with joy and expression,” Hartley said.
She added that, while she knows people hear that, they don’t take it to heart often enough.
“If I’m not happy, mentally healthy, it’s not going to matter what my grades are. I had to really realize that sometimes you might have to turn in a paper late or draw that line for yourself where it’s not going to make or break you if you can’t complete that assignment. It comes down to laying out your priorities. Mental health has to be high up there,” Hartley said.