MILLTOWN — Lauren Tyree has quite a list of accomplishments in her community-service portfolio: creator of a nonprofit organization, prolific fundraiser, Eagle Scout, international volunteer. She’s also 14 years old and a high school freshman.
Tyree, who attends Saint Mark’s High School, added to her service resume in January, when she traveled to the Dominican Republic for a week to do mission work, “which allowed people to get medical help or rebuild homes,” she said recently. Her group, organized by a church in Connecticut that she found online, also built a gazebo for the community in the batey they visited. A batey is a shanty town where workers in the sugarcane fields live.
One of her brothers had made a similar trip, so she thought she knew what she was getting into, “but it was completely different. It was a whole lot more than I thought it was going to be originally. We were delivering food in a monsoon basically. We got lost, and this 4-year-old came up to us, and he led us to the different houses that we had to go to.”
Tyree said her interest in community service dates back to when she was 5 or 6 years old and her brothers joined the Boy Scouts of America. She said she became their “proxy Scout” and witnessed the work that they did.
“I just kind of fell in love with community service and making a difference,” she said. “You can bring people together with a common goal and make a huge difference, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of time. And sometimes, it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort. It makes a difference for other people, and I think that’s really what has drawn me to it and kept me with it.”
She joined the Boy Scouts and remains a member of Troop 19, based in Marshallton, Pa. Tyree said it has about 40 girls and is one of the largest troops for girls in Chester County, Pa. She recalled her first camping trip in Washington Crossing, Pa., before she was affiliated with any troop, and she wasn’t thrilled with being in the woods with the bugs and the noise. A Scout master helped her get through that experience, and it had an effect on her.
“We would just take baby steps,” she said. “It taught me that I can take baby steps with huge milestones. Doing that with other people is so much fun.”
For her Eagle Scout project, she coordinated the construction of a “gaga pit” at Avon Grove Charter School at the elementary school site, which she attended. Gaga is a version of dodgeball played in an enclosed area, usually shaped like a hexagon or octagon. One of her brothers built a pit at Avon Grove Charter’s high school site. All three of her brothers are Eagle Scouts.
A member of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in West Grove, Pa., Tyree received the President’s Volunteer Service Award as a seventh-grader. During the coronavirus pandemic, she and a friend started Cul de Sac Concerts, which offered online access to viewers for a small donation. They raised about $25,000 in about 10 weeks for local food banks.
More recently, Tyree helped start GLDN, the Growth and Leadership Development Network after the United Methodist Church stopped chartering Boy Scout troops. GLDN provides troops with a chartering organization.
“We’re chartering two troops and two packs right now,” she said.
Within GLDN is another organization, Students Engaged in Relief Volunteering, which is the organization that raises money for service trips like the one to the Dominican.
She has been involved in various projects at Saint Mark’s, getting started even before she was a student there. She joined her father and brothers working on the livestreaming at graduation, and she has continued with her audio work at school Masses.
“That’s a lot of what I do,” she said.
She also has gotten involved with the Blue-Gold Club at Saint Mark’s. This year, she worked on the audio at the annual fashion show. In addition, she collected three duffel bags of clothes from Saint Mark’s students for her trip to the Dominican.
Tyree is returning to the Dominican this summer, and she is thinking of starting a club at Saint Mark’s for that purpose.
“The school has offered so many opportunities for service projects. We get messages every week about them. The school has given me that platform to be able to do that,” she said.
Not everything in her life is related to service, but “community” is a word that is a frequent part of her vocabulary. She said she recently watched “The Last of Us,” which followed a teenager immune from a fungal infection that causes its hosts to transform into zombie-like creatures.
“I thought it was kind of cool, the community sense of it,” she said. “I was like, ‘That’s what I do.’ I try to bring the community into it.”