It's easy to see how Sanford H. Calhoun High School's Jessie Driscoll can shimmy her way into anyone's heart. As a professional Irish step dancer, teacher and captain of her high school's kick-line team, she has choreographed her life to include a passion for dance and performance with helping others in need worldwide.
"I owe it all to my mother," she says of her quest to help the less-fortunate, which has become a family affair.
Driscoll, 18, along with her parents and two brothers, volunteers in the soup kitchen at Harvest for the World, a nonprofit social service organization serving Roosevelt and surrounding areas, according to its website. The family spearheaded an effort to rebuild the organization's backyard. "It's really, really great to help other people," Driscoll said.
She hasn't met a cause she doesn't like.
Driscoll has collected more than 2,000 cards and letters to send to Merrick troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; collected more than a ton of clothing and supplies for families in the poverty-stricken Appalachia region of Kentucky and raised more than $5,000 herself and more than $36,000 with her family to help support Long Island 2 Day Breast Cancer Walks. The cause is close to her family's heart -- Driscoll's mother, Marianne, is a breast cancer survivor.
During a cab ride in New Orleans in July 2009, she and her mom got to talking with the driver, who was collecting books to send back to his native Nigeria. Within two months, Driscoll and her mom collected enough books and supplies to fill two libraries across the Atlantic. Since 2002, the family has hosted an annual benefit, named Jazi, to support the village of Epworth in Zimbabwe.
"She's so humble and she's just such a sincere young woman," said guidance counselor Carol Cupo. "She's a leader among her peers."
Driscoll's passion for helping others is equally matched by her passion for dancing. She's been on kick line for four years and has been team captain for the past two years.
Driscoll has been an Irish step dancer since she was 3 and has competed nationally and internationally.