Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Noah, Margo and Justin
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Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Noah, Margo and Justin

At Rustic Pathways, we’re constantly inspired by the students who are making change in their communities and around the world.

These young changemakers show true ‘Rustic Spirit.’ They have identified an issue, collaborated with others, and created a solution. Their actions help others and are making the world a better place.

Rustic Spirit Spotlights are a collection of stories that shine a light on these teen changemakers who demonstrate leadership and are working hard to make a positive impact. Not only have they made a difference, but they are showing other young people they can change the world too.

Noah Omura
Age 14
Cardinal Newman School
South Carolina, United States

During the summer, Noah volunteers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center to weave mats out of plastic bags for homeless veterans.

Plastic bag mats, also known as plarn mats, have advantages over normal sleeping mats because they do not get waterlogged during a storm or attract bed bugs, and they also help to reduce plastic bags in landfills. Noah attaches a tag with the numbers for the Veterans Crisis Line and the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, in hopes that those in need can reach out for help when they are ready to do so.

He gave a TEDx Talk to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the project, and also gave a virtual demonstration to the American Red Cross on how to create the mats.

Noah loves playing basketball, editing photos and videos, watching movies and playing games with his friends. Currently in middle school, Noah already has plans for his future. He wants to major in business and take up his father’s job when he retires.

Impact advice: Try to do what you like when you help others. When you do what you love, you always put in 100% of your effort. When you try to help others, nothing less should be acceptable.

Margo Schellinger
Age 16
St. Joseph’s Catholic School
South Carolina, United States

Margo has worked with Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas (RMHCC) Teen Leadership Board since its creation two years ago, earning over 175 hours of community service. Being in and out of hospitals her whole life and facing two chronic illnesses, Margo will never forget healthcare workers who have shown her compassion. She has been deeply impacted by these individuals and strives to show this through her service work.

Margo fell in love with RMHCC when she was seeking extra volunteer opportunities. She first started doing Service from Your Sofa activities with friends and then began to volunteer every week. In the past two years, Margo has single handedly raised $3000 for RMHCC through her Big Give Events, which she hosts in partnership with her school’s Medical Club.

Last year, Margo earned the Difference-Maker Award for most material donations of any single board member to the House during the 2020-2021 school year. And this year, she has served on the Executive Committee as the Service Chair, where it is her responsibility to track the service hours of members as well as assist with their individual service projects. This coming school year, she has been invited back to serve on the Executive Committee as the Vice President.

For fun, Margo enjoys doing anything active and outdoors. She is a competitive swimmer and  loves to climb mountains, having climbed seven of Colorado’s with an elevation over 14,000 ft. Margo hopes to major in neuroscience on the pre-health track at the University of Notre Dame. At whichever school she ultimately decides on, Margo aspires to pursue a career in medicine centered around providing healthcare for people in poverty all over the world – combining her interest in science and medicine with a deep love for serving others.

Impact advice: Start small. Sometimes getting involved in service can feel very daunting, but you just have to do one small thing at a time. You don’t need to do something grandiose to change the world because the small things are truly what impact people the most. Also, try and look for something that you feel personally connected to.

Justin Humphrey
Age 17
Pauls Valley High School
Oklahoma, United States

Justin is a selfless individual who is always helping others in his community. He assists at the local food pantry, mows the soccer fields and gives baseball lessons to younger kids. He rallies other students when a project calls for extra helping hands.

In his free time Justin enjoys playing sports, hunting, fishing, and playing video games with friends. He has had a wild travel experience – jumping off of a 800ft cliff in Africa! Justin plans on majoring in business, and intends to take over his dad’s business building fire trucks.

Impact advice: Be kind to everyone! A simple compliment or saying hello to someone can turn their day around!

Nominate a Student

Do you know a student doing valuable work that deserves to be recognized? Nominate them here! Are you making an impact? Tell us about your work here.

Make Change

Interested in creating change in your community? Check out our guide and learn how to make an impact as a student.

At Rustic Pathways, our goal is to make positive contributions to the communities we visit through responsible travel operations and community service projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.