Scout’s honor: Felicia Fil wins the Gazette’s Young Community Leader award

  • Hopkins Academy junior Felicia Fil is the recipient of the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s 2019 Young Community Leader award. Photographed at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Hadley where, among other things, she is a reader, an altar server and volunteers with the church’s weekend meals program. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hopkins Academy junior Felicia Fil, photographed at her home in Hadley, April 24, is the recipient of the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s 2019 Young Community Leader award. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hopkins Academy junior Felicia Fil is the recipient of the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s 2019 Young Community Leader award. Photographed at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Hadley where, among other things, she is a reader, an altar server and volunteers with the church's weekend meals program. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2019 8:38:24 PM

HADLEY — There’s senior prom, and then there’s prom for seniors. Seventeen-year-old Felicia Fil pulled off the latter, a dance and dinner party for senior citizens in the area last November. Fil arranged all aspects of the free event held at Most Holy Redeemer Church’s parish hall, including recruiting younger Girl Scouts to act as servers for the meal, hiring a DJ to play music and locating a professional photographer to take portraits.

The idea grew out of popular bingo nights that Fil hosted for people of all ages, and an interest in bringing together different generations, while the money raised from bingo funded the free prom that drew more than 100 guests 60 and over. And while Fil was the driving force behind all of it, she says she couldn’t have put on the prom on her own.

“All the credit goes to members of the community who helped to support my ideas and my project,” Fil said. “For sure, a lot of credit goes to the people in this community.”

It is Fil’s dedication to service projects, which have become almost second nature to the Hopkins Academy junior, that has earned her the Gazette’s 2019 Young Community Leader Award.

As other girls got older and left Troop 40033, of which she has been a member for 11 years, Fil said she was inspired to do more and to set the example for others as she worked toward her Girl Scouts’ Gold Award.

“For me, the smaller we got, the more active I became,” Fil said. “I embraced the girl-led aspect and community service.”

To earn the Gold Award, Fil had to do 80 hours of service but ended up doing 300, which included being a volunteer waiter at summer events at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House and training new museum staff for the Perfect Spot of Tea, as well as visiting residents at The Arbors retirement community in Amherst. Previously, when earning the Silver Award, Fil completed 50 hours of service, during which time she sewed pillowcases for patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Fil also joined the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts during her freshman year.

For the past five years, Pattie Hallberg, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, has gotten to know Fil, who is one of four girls who serve on the board.

“She is a very articulate, well-rounded young woman who can really speak to the needs of girls today,” Hallberg said. “I can’t say enough about her confidence and commitment, and I am so impressed with her leadership abilities.”

Barbara Pliska, who serves as the troop leader in Hadley, echoed the sentiment.

“She’s extremely deserving of this award,” Pliska said. “She’s just so aware of the community and the elderly and senior citizens.”

The daughter of Ginny Fil, a preschool teacher, and Thomas Fil, a carpenter, and the middle of three children, Fil sees a connection between her love of service and a diagnosis she received as a child. At 8, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which came with its own set of responsibilities. 

“That helped me be a strong leader and relate more with older people and adults,” Fil said. “It taught me a lot about perseverance, getting assignments done and getting community service done.” She follows the mantra “Finish the task at hand,” she added.

At church, Fil has been an altar server since third grade and, since ninth grade, has added duties as a reader. “Between Girl Scouts and church, I’ve become good at public speaking,” Fil said. 

In addition to her work as a past student leader of Vacation Bible School, she also does meal prep as a volunteer on weekends through the church’s “Meals on Wheels” program and has helped with the parish picnic and a Mardi Gras celebration. “Whatever they need, I’m willing to do,” Fil said.

Fil has no shortage of other activities: playing clarinet in the marching and concert bands at Hopkins, serving as the public relations manager for the school’s diversity club and secretary of the Student Council, being a leader of the Peer Mentor and Leadership Program and working on the Hawk’s Claw newspaper and the Hopkins yearbook.

She also plays on the soccer team, captains the junior varsity basketball team and earned a sportsmanship award for basketball.

Fil also works weekends at Atkins Farms Country Market, sometimes doing stints at North Hadley Sugar Shack and Four Rex Farm.

“I have a pretty full plate,” Fil said, though she adds she has found free time to practice yoga, go on bike rides and hikes, reads books and travel to places such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

She has not yet identified where she will go to college or what she will study, but those who know Fil are confident about her next steps.

“She never ceases to amaze me,” Pliska said. “She has such a bright future.”

“There’s no question Felicia Fil will be a leader as an adult just as she has been a leader as a young woman,” Hallberg said.

Please join the United Way of Hampshire County and the Daily Hampshire Gazette as they honor outstanding community members for their work in Hampshire County. Tickets for the event, at the Look Park Garden House on Thursday, May 30, from 5 to 7 p.m., are $25 per person and are available at tinyurl.com/UWHCDHG, or contact Jenna Farrell at jenna@uwhampshire.org to complete your registration. Proceeds from the event will benefit the United Way.  Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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