GNADENHUTTEN -- When it comes to planning for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, many people may think about the foods they will eat and the gifts they will receive.
But for the last four years, graduating Indian Valley High School senior Amanda Fowler has occupied herself orchestrating FFA food and toy collections for the less fortunate during the pre-holiday season.
"Community service and serving others, is honestly one of the most heart-warming feelings that you can get from any object or thing," she said. "If everyone's heart was in a place where they felt like serving others was a vital part of society, the world would literally be a better place."
Fowler is president of her school's chapter of FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The 649,355-member organization supports and promotes agricultural organization in middle- and high- school classes. Its motto is: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.
Amanda Fowler had intensive exposure to FFA's service mission when, as a freshman, she participated in activities with her older sister Sarah Fowler, who was then vice-president of Indian Valley's FFA chapter. Amanda Fowler had previously been involved in community service through her 4-H club, the Thunder Valley Pioneers.
Her fair projects were market livestock. The 13-year 4-H member has showed animals since she was 9. She started with hogs. In her freshman year of high school, the Port Washington-area resident began showing market steers.
"I wish I would have gotten involved in that sooner, because I love cows so much more than I love pigs," Fowler said. "I really do."She sold a pig and a steer at last year's Tuscarawas County Fair.
Just as she has increased her ambitions in showing 4-H projects, she recently changed her career plans from being a nurse to becoming a physician's assistant. She plans a minor in Spanish, so she can become a translator if she is not admitted to a physician-assisting program.
"I don't like to not be prepared," Fowler said.
Counselor Keeley Marstrell Kochman took note of Fowler's ambition in switching her career goal.
"She's always raising the bar for herself," Kochman said. "She's always striving to be more. It's incredible that she does so much for others as well. She does a lot for the school. She does a lot for the community. We will miss her. She's a good leader."
The counselor is also impressed by Fowler's interest in learning. She recalled when she was a teacher and Fowler asked if she could repeat at Indian Valley a class she had previously taken at Kent State University at Tuscarawas because she wanted to have a deeper understanding of the content.
'I don't have a lot of students who would do that," Kochman said. "I've just always been impressed with the self-actualization.
"She gets the job done every time," Kochman said.
The admiration goes both ways between Fowler and the Indian Valley staff.
Her favorite teachers have included history teacher Andy McMillen and FFA adviser Dave Stiles.
"That man is a godsend, honestly," Fowler said of Stiles. "You have a bad day at school, and he's there to talk you through it."
Stiles had a few words to say about her: "She's a good kid."
MEET AMANDA FOWLER
Amanda Fowler, Indian Valley High School graduating senior
Residence: Port Washington area
Family: Mother, Natalie Fowler, father, John Fowler, and siblings Sarah Fowler, Thomas Cunningham and Margie Simmerman.
Extra-curricular activities: FFA, president; National Honor Society; Thunder Valley Pioneers 4-H club; three-year varsity cheerleader; Uhrichsville Water Park lifeguard; Tony Mart employee.
Future educational plans: Major in biology, minor in Spanish at Kent State University at Tuscarawas, then West Liberty University in West Liberty, W. Va.
Career goal: Physician's assistant.
Memories: She smiled at the thought of her first 4-H market hog, Hamlet. He looked like a pig that might be depicted in a children's book.
"He was a Yorkshire cross, so basically he had pointy ears and he was pink," she said. She had to get used to the idea of selling her animals for slaughter.
"My first year, I cried," she said. "My mom told me if I ever cried again that I wouldn't be allowed to do it. She said 'That's a part of life; you don't need to cry about it.'"
She grew up with a sow named Big Momma who produced piglets for 4-H projects. She admitted to crying when Big Momma had to go, because there was no point feeding a farm animal that couldn't earn its keep.
"She was literally a pet. She knew her name. She came to her name. She was huge. She was the most docile pig. Even when she had piglets, you could go in the pen with her."