This is part of The Daily Herald’s annual report on charity in Snohomish County. Complete list of stories
MARYSVILLE — Cheerleaders in training gather around Cassandra “Cassie” Kunselman. It’s not quite football season, but the girls are eager to practice cheers the 15-year-old taught them.
With laughter and energy in their voices, the kids shout out a cheer: “We wanna hot dog, we wanna Coke, we wanna touchdown, that’s no joke.”
Alawna Schweitzberger, 11, and 7-year-olds Amaya Villalobo and Jaelyn Fox are getting ready to cheer this fall in support of Marysville Youth Football League players.
Cassie, a sophomore at Marysville Getchell International School of Communications, is a volunteer cheer coach with the Marysville Junior Cheerleading Association. Helping younger girls learn to cheer is a fun way to spend a balmy summer evening in Marysville’s Jennings Memorial Park.
The teen’s volunteer hours may also help her to once again earn a Varsity Letter in Community Service. Cassie was one of more than 80 Snohomish County high school students recognized this past school year with a varsity letter for volunteerism.
For generations a symbol of achievement for student athletes, a varsity letter can now be a badge of honor designating a teen with a heart for helping others.
United Way of Snohomish County and local school districts work in partnership so that students can earn a Varsity Letter in Community Service. The program was launched locally in 2012, and is underway nationwide through other United Way organizations.
To earn a the varsity letter, students are required to complete at least 145 hours of qualified volunteer work and meet other criteria, including maintaining a 2.0 grade point average or better. The hours can’t include time spent on classwork or other graduation requirements.
For Cassie and others working toward next year’s letter, hours must be completed between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017. An application fee of $15 helps cover costs for the cloth letters and award packets, but students may contact United Way if they can’t afford the fee. Donors are welcome to sponsor one or more student letters.
Danielle Kunselman, Cassie’s mom, said her daughter has been doing volunteer work since fourth grade. “I’m just the taxi driver,” said Danielle Kunselman, who was at the park to watch cheerleading practice.
Codi Villalobos, Amaya’s mom, is vice president of the Marysville Junior Cheerleading Association and a cheer coach. More than 80 girls, ages 5 to 13, are involved in the program, she said.
Through her volunteer work, Cassie Kunselman has also been awarded a President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national recognition of volunteerism, for five years running.
“I mostly volunteer with kids,” she said. “I love connecting with them, and seeing the smiles on their faces.”
Cassie Kunselman said her hours as a volunteer cheer coach will count toward a varsity letter. So too will her service with children through the annual Lake Stevens Aquafest. In 2015, she served as an Aquafest community service queen, and this year she’s an Aquafest junior ambassador.
“It’s a community service pageant. That’s part of everything we do — speaking in front of people, giving back to the community, working with kids — all year around,” she said.
With Aquafest, Cassie said she participated in a “reading with royalty” program at Marysville elementary schools. She picked potatoes to help a homeless shelter, and gathered school supplies for a Volunteers of America program to give backpacks to students in need.
Chris Fox, Jaelyn’s mother, said her daughter “sticks with cheerleading because of Cassie — she loves Cassie.”
“And now Jaelyn is interested in volunteer work,” Fox said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
How to letter in community service
United Way of Snohomish County and area school districts team up to recognize high school students with a Varsity Letter in Community Service. To earn the letter, students must complete 145 volunteer hours in a calendar year and meet other criteria. Volunteer activities must be verifiable. Students must have at least a 2.0 grade point average.
A $15 application fee helps cover costs for the patches and award packets. Those unable to pay may contact Jessica at 425-374-5530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sponsor a student, send a check, payable to United Way of Snohomish County, to 3120 McDougall Ave. Ste. 200, Everett, WA 98201, Attn: Varsity Letter.