Ashland High School seniors Cody Caplinger and Nicole Rinaldi spent their summer break giving back to the community and helping a lot of needy kids get a jump start on the new school year. As part of their senior project, the two 17-year olds organized a donation drive to provide backpacks and supplies to kids who could not afford them. The service-minded teens were able to collect and distribute hundreds of backpacks to students in the small rural community of Newell, in Northern Calif. Rinaldi's father said he is struck by her lifelong desire to help people.
"Helping others and being of service to those in need is something that has been in Nicole's heart since she a little girl. I'm proud of her and the work she and Cody have done recently," said John Rinaldi, Jr. Cari Baker, who advised the teens during the backpack drive, said she was impressed with their hard work and their ability to work so well together.
"They made a great team, really balancing one another," said Baker. "Cody had a knack for communicating with businesses and Nicole had a knack for putting it all together. The 2 of them working together were amazing," added Baker.
The hard-working teens took some time time to talk with the Daily Tidings about their lives, their futures, and the rewards of community service.
DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?
CC: Mine is lunch.
NR: I like anatomy and physiology, Spanish and leadership.
DT: What does leadership involve?
NR: Leadership is like student council with the class presidents, treasurers, vice presidents, that kind of thing. I'm the senior class vice president I'm pretty sure. We get together and plan dances, assemblies, lunchtime activities, dress up days and other things.
DT: What would you like to do when you graduate high school?
CC: I'd like to move to a big city and start my own business.
NR: I would like to go into the medical field. Right now, I'm exploring nursing, but my dream is to become a pediatrician. I love kids.
DT: You both collected backpacks for needy kids to use this fall. Can you talk about that ?
CC: I went to Newell my 8th grade year and saw the struggle and need for help in the community. I was really surprised how hard people are struggling so close to where I live. I have gone almost every year since then trying to help them out in some way. And I thought it would make an awesome senior project knowing that it could change someone's life. I knew how huge a project this would be so I asked Nicole to be my partner.
NR: When Cody came to me with the idea and asked if I wanted to join him, I thought it was biting off more than we could chew at first, but it turned out great. We put out donation boxes in Rite Aid, the YMCA, Bank of America, and the Dollar Tree. The Dollar Tree filled our box completely twice. We also put out jars for money with a label about our cause on it. We got a lot of donations from family and friends, and the Kiwanis Club gave us $346 in total after a brief presentation. We also had a great mentor, Cari Baker, who knew a lot about how to plan these types of events, has the necessary connections in Newell, and really helped us with organization. All in all, we exceeded our goal by two backpacks and filled each one with more supplies than we had originally planned. Everything went smoothly. It was a touching experience.
DT: Had you done anything like this before?
CC: As far as volunteering goes, yes. I've gone to Mexico once a year for the past three years to help fix up an orphanage with my church.
NR: Being in leadership, I have helped plan events before, but not just with two people and not one this big.
DT: Do either of you think you will do anything like this again in the future?
CC: Yes. Seeing the kids' faces was priceless and worth every second of hard work put into it. I hope to do it again sometime.
NR: I'd love to do this again sometime. Maybe some juniors this year will take on our back-to-school event for their senior project next year. I'd love to be a part of that. Right now, though, I'm more focused on college and scholarships than planning another event.
DT: Talk about someone in your life who inspires you.
CC: Mostly God, He gives us so much and I can't even come close to giving the same back.
NR: Cari Baker never ceases to amaze me. She has a never-ending strength and patience. She was pregnant through the summer, and spent a week sleeping on a hard floor in the hot summer in a mosquito-filled town for a retreat with our church's middle school group. She also is amazing with kids and has taught me a lot in participating in First Baptist's Vacation Bible School.
DT: What are your interests outside of school?
CC: I'm interested in business, and I like snowboarding, hockey, mountain biking, cooking, camping hanging with friends.
NR: Outside of school, I love to play ultimate Frisbee, especially in the mud [laughs]. Volleyball is another of my favorite sports. I also love to surf. The beach is my favorite place to be. I love to travel as well. I'd love to go to Italy. Volleyball is their national sport for women too.
DT: Do you ever have trouble balancing school work and outside activities?
CC: Yes, school is very hard to keep a priority cause I just can't stand going to school all day, then going to work then doing more schoolwork at home.
NR: Yes, I tend to procrastinate, and then homework takes longer than I think it will. It all works out in the end though.
DT: Tell us something about a friend or family member who makes you proud.
CC: Nicole. She really stepped up and helped a lot in this project.
NR: One friend that has really been making me proud lately is Heather Brown. She isn't afraid to stand up to someone she has a disagreement with, but does it in a very polite way. She is also becoming a music star. She has been playing songs that she wrote in front of the church at Ashland Christian Fellowship, and she is planning a concert for her senior project.
DT: Tell us something you have done that makes you proud.
CC: Really, this senior project was my greatest accomplishment I can think of.
NR: The back-to-school event definitely makes me proud. The kids were happy to get new supplies. There were a couple of times when I looked around thinking, "I can't believe Cody and I did this."