Madison teen breaking the mold, making big impact on community - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison teen breaking the mold, making big impact on community

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Henry Gaylord isn't your typical 17-year-old.

"He really rolls up his sleeves and gets things done and digs into the deep issues to help get things done for people. He's amazing," says Renee Moe, Executive Vice President of Resource Development and Marketing at the United Way of Dane County.

Henry started volunteering freshman year, on the By Youth, For Youth committee, through the United Way.

"We decide, deliberate and distribute up to $32,000 annually to youth programs and youth groups," says Henry.

And he really stood out to leaders at United Way.

"He really figures out 'What can I do? How does this learning, how does this exposure to the community help me think differently about my place in the world? Help societies and communities change?" says Moe.

So, they put him on their board of directors.

"I was given this incredible opportunity to have a voice," says Henry.

He has spent countless volunteer hours, researching the issues that affect his peers and educating them.

"I kept talking to them about the community and what's happening with United Way and our community and they started giving their insight and their perspective."

He would take what he learned back to the board and help develop ways to implement changes in education, address health issues in young people and tackle poverty.

"What do we have for our homeless youth? What protections do we have? What else do we need to protect our very vulnerable citizens in our community?"

Henry wasn't only working hard for his community, he was also working hard in school,  enough to graduate a year early.

He decided to take a year off to continue volunteering.

But, the United Way had a surprise for him.

Henry's volunteer work for them was so impactful, they offered him a salaried position as a loaned executive.

"I will be representing United Way in our community  and working with our partners  and organizations to help raise awareness of what we are doing and gather community support."

"He's added so much value in terms of compassion and heart and intelligence and I think really helped the board members understand that youth have a very important voice," says Moe.

"Our community's success kind of lives or dies with the next generation," says Henry.

Once he does head off to college, he plans to major in political science or community and non profit leadership.

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