by LAUREE S. PURCELL
Fourteen-year-old Ginny Miller was homeschooled until last summer. She dove head first into her first year at Eastern Mennonite Middle School by taking a lead role in her school’s play “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” last December. “Acting as the mother helped me grow in knowledge of the theater and of myself,” said Ginny. “I learned how to take charge when I’m needed and enjoyed working with the other actors,” she said. Ginny was one of six middle school students in “Brigadoon” at Eastern Mennonite High School in May. As part of her role, she learned some Scottish dance steps and sang in the children’s chorus.
Since joining the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC) in 2014, Ginny has saved all her earnings from her lawn-mowing business to enjoy SVCC’s future trips. This year, they’ll sing in Baltimore with Maryland State Boychoir and travel to Peru in 2017. “It’s a challenge balancing my schoolwork with the rigorous practice schedule of the SVCC, but it’s worth it because I’m learning about being professional on stage and about solfege [the first step toward sight reading music],” Ginny said. Participating in her church’s children’s choir and taking piano lessons for several years helped prepare Ginny for SVCC.
Ginny enjoys volunteering at Highland Retreat camp near Bergton. After enjoying day camp for a summer, she had her first week of overnight camp there when she was 10. She’s been back for more outdoor experiences at Highland every summer and has helped serve meals, spread wood chips, mulch, weed and do deep cleaning of the cabins. “I like working with kids and want to continue spending my summers surrounded by the beautiful mountains,” said Ginny. She hopes to be part of the “staff in training” next year and work at Highland as a counselor during her summer breaks while in college. “The counselors at Highland Retreat are awesome,” said Ginny.
She has plenty of water experience by competing on the Westover Waves swim team for the past five summers. “My grandmother loved the water and taught that love to her grandchildren, so swimming is in my blood,” she said.
Ginny enjoys helping her dad with his hobby of reworking bicycles in their garage. With his help last winter and spring, she fixed up a Schwinn Fastback bike from the 1960s for herself. “We tore it down to its bare bones. It’s fun to ride and now I understand the mechanics of a bike,” she commented.
Ginny, her parents Carmen and Chad Miller, and 12-year-old brother Clint are all active members of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church (HMC). She and her brother keep HMC’s grass cut, and she’s helped plant trees along the walking path and in the memorial grove there. “Digging in the dirt on Saturdays with my dad is fun,” said Ginny. “And it’s a way to honor some of our members past and present, like Wayne and Doris North.” She grew up helping church women quilt and knot comforters on sewing day. Now that she is in school when they sew, she misses her older friends there.
When Ginny was 8, she and her mother were part of a team of five providing childcare for a conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “We brought big Legos, finger puppets and books for the 20 children in our care that week. It was hard work but very enjoyable because I got to connect with kids living in another part of the world,” she recalled.
Like many teenagers in the Shenandoah Valley, Ginny is thriving in the supportive environment created by her parents, her school, her church and the many local community organizations dedicated to helping young people succeed.
LAUREE STROUD PURCELL is an editorial consultant and writer for Living.
Know someone 30 or under to nominate for a future Shenandoah Spotlight? Requirements are: Valley resident or grew up here, outstanding for their job, community, or church work, and the model they provide. Contact us at [email protected].