Sam Barlow High School Senior Sarah Yates devotes time and energy to others

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Yates, 17, enjoys the stories told by those she meets through volunteering.

If Sarah Yates didn’t have her eye on nursing school, she would make an excellent journalist.

“I like listening to other people’s stories,” Sarah said. “It helps me to be less narrow-minded and expand my horizons. I think I am better able to help people when I know what they’ve been through.”

The 17-year-old Sam Barlow High School senior holds a volunteer résumé that reads like a phone book. The gifts of her time and talent have impacted those at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, My Father’s House, Zaraphath Kitchen and Gresham Manor, among others.

But volunteering, according to Sarah, is a “passion” that continually inspires her to find new ways to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Sarah entered high school as a member of the volleyball team. When the activity turned out to be less than her cup of tea, she decided to turn her spare time and energies into helping other people. She’d harbored a desire to volunteer at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center since she was in middle school, but didn’t meet the age requirement until two years ago. To date, Sarah has logged more than 350 volunteer hours on the hospital’s general surgery floor.

“I wanted to see what the nurses did and explore if that’s what I want to do,” she said. “But there is such a need. The nurses are so grateful for simple things like making sure there are gloves in the rooms. The little things that I can do to help them is so rewarding.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Sarah Yates spends one Saturday each month teaching computer skills to seniors at Gresham Manor. Student Morris Portin, 92, is learning Facebook.

After seeing how much hospital patients appreciated a friendly greeting or minor assistance, Sarah began spending time at Gresham Manor retirement residence earlier this year. She helped with a variety of resident activities at the facility before taking on the role of home computer tutor a few months ago. One Saturday each month, Sarah travels from residence to residence, teaching seniors how to email or navigate Facebook. The one-on-one contact, she said, was far more satisfying than participating in group activities.

“I felt I wasn’t able to connect with the residents on a personal level,” Sarah said. “So when the opportunity came up to teach computer skills, I took it. It’s fun because they love to talk and I can hear their stories. It’s so interesting. They open up a whole new world of thinking for me.”

A lifelong Gresham resident, Sarah admits to growing up in a warm and loving family. She credits her parents, Steve and Tracy Yates, with teaching her compassion and a desire to help those less fortunate than she. That example led her to further stretch her volunteer time with organizations that address homelessness and poverty.

“That strikes a chord with me,” she said. “They’re human, and a lot of people are afraid of them, but they’re just like everybody else. They didn’t choose to be where they are. They’re grateful when somebody will even talk to them. And they have great stories.”

In January this year, Sarah coordinated a gently used clothing drive at Barlow, called Jeans for Teens. The annual drive is sponsored by trendy clothier Aeropostale, which donates the collected jeans to homeless shelters and other nonprofit agencies around the country.

Sarah researched the project, contacted the store and together with other members of Barlow’s Key Club set up collection barrels at the school. In less than a month, the group collected 200 pairs of jeans. It was a labor-intensive project for the spunky teenager, as well as an eye-opening experience in how easy it is to take things for granted.

“What made me want to do it (Jeans for Teens) is because I saw where somebody asked homeless teens what would make them feel normal,” Sarah said. “They all said a pair of jeans. I never thought a pair of jeans would make someone feel like they fit in with everybody else.”

A nearly straight-A student, Sarah hopes to attend the University of Portland, study nursing and maintain her myriad volunteer activities. Her dream job, however, would be to spend every day in the childcare center at My Father’s House, sitting on the floor interacting with the children.

“Kids are just so joyful,” she said. “I don’t have a care in the world when I’m there. But there is such a need for volunteers everywhere. I just wish I didn’t have any homework. Then I would be able to do so much more.”

Do you know a Shining Star?

Shining Stars is a new feature that recognizes local students quietly doing great things in the community. Outlook readers, parents and teachers are encouraged to tell us about a student of any age, whose talents outside the academic arena are making our world a better place. Do they volunteer regularly at a retirement center? Have they taught an artistic practice to a youth group? What are they doing in the community that makes us proud to call them neighbor?

Tell us about a Shining Star you know by contacting Anne Endicott at 503-492-5118 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And watch for the next Shining Star in the Tuesday, Dec. 4 issue of the Outlook.

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