Haddonfield Memorial High School senior Victoria Hirst is keeping busy as the temptation to enter the “senior slide” creeps in with longer days and warmer temperatures.
A varsity tennis player who is hoping to attend an Ivy League institution in the fall, Hirst has packed her hectic schedule with a healthy dose of public service. When The Sun spoke with her on Feb. 28, Hirst was one day from participating in the “Spare Some Love” bowling fundraiser on behalf of Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey.
More than 50 teenagers from more than two dozen local schools were set to participate at Laurel Lanes in Maple Shade, and Hirst wouldn’t miss it — after all, she’s on the Executive Committee of the Teen Advisory Council and was responsible for organizing the effort as well as deciding on what to do with the funds collected.
“I interviewed to be on the TAC my sophomore year, and I officially joined my junior year. I just watched what they did, learned how sponsorships worked, what their mission was, fell in love with it. I decided to apply for executive council, and this year I got to take over as a director. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s stressful. It’s a lot to take in because you worry about making everybody comfortable.”
Though monthly gatherings are the rule, there were two separate meetings in February to get ready for “Spare Some Love,” and the organization’s March session will deal with the fundraiser follow-up.
“We’ll be discussing what our biggest challenges were. That’s probably going to be ticket sales because it’s harder to get people to come to the event, especially when it’s seniors in high school asking their friends,” she said.
“We’ll be using the money for a good cause. We decided to renovate one of the rooms there (at RMHSNJ). The TAC has its own room and it’s kind of fallen apart over the years. And on top of that, whatever we have left, we’re gonna use to get 365 days of provided living for those who are already there.”
Hirst’s thirst for service began in her church as a young child in North Jersey, and continued when a move to Haddonfield in grade school allowed for new opportunities.
“I was in Girl Scouts, but they didn’t have a troop that was my age group down here, so I had to give that up, which was annoying because it was the kind of service that I enjoyed doing with friends and it was good to give back and to sell cookies,” she explained.
Her familiarity with the Ronald McDonald House began because one of her newborn relatives had to stay there as a preemie, and the experience of seeing his family taken care of during an unexpected situation left a deep impression.
“As I got older and established down here, my mom’s law firm got involved, going over once a month to make meals. When my mom would go down she would ask ‘is there anything Victoria can do?’ and ‘Victoria wants to help out, give her something to do,’” she added with a laugh.
Although her final destination in higher education is still up in the air, Hirst remains committed to serving others in some capacity wherever she lands.
“I’m waiting to hear back from my top choice schools. I’ve gotten responses from a few. My dream school is Brown. Some of the schools I applied to, like University of Rochester, have a Ronald McDonald House right by them, so I found out I could continue my work. It’s kinda sad to give it up when you graduate,” she admitted.
Even her intended career path — ophthalmology — has an element of service and deeper meaning attached.
“I got really interested in eyes after doing a cow-eye dissection in seventh grade,” Hirst revealed. “Then I found out my mother had macular degeneration, it’s hereditary in my family. I’d love to do some research on that in college and continue research and maybe surgery for my career.”
Not content to simply reach for her dream school, Hirst also wants to find a way to incorporate artistry into her academic journey, as part of a double major which presumptively will begin with a pre-med program. One thing she wants to put the brakes on is furthering her tennis career in favor of another athletic passion.
“I definitely want to keep doing tennis as a club (rather than a JV or varsity team). If I end up going north, I want to do skiing, because I’ve been skiing since I was 3. I think I’ve worked hard enough.”
For more information on the RMHSNJ, visit ronaldhouse-snj.org/, and for more information on its Teen Advisory Council, visit ronaldhouse-snj.org/who-we-are/teen-advisory-council/