What’s it like to work with Demi Lovato? Is it fun to be famous? Are you single?
These are questions Long Island middle school students lobbed at Allisyn Ashley Arm Friday when the 14-year-old star of Disney Channel’s “Sonny With A Chance” spoke at the 10th anniversary conference of “Our Kids In Action” at Farmingdale State College.
Allisyn told the crowd of 1,600 students that the first time she was recognized in public she didn’t grasp why people were looking at her. “What, do I have something on my face?” she thought. She likes interacting with fans and encourages them to approach her, she says. “I think it’s really cool when kids come up and ask to get a picture.”
The cameras were snapping lots of photos Friday, as students from schools such as Ronkonkoma, Candlewood and Baldwin middle schools whipped out cell phones to get shot of Allisyn, who plays the quirky Zora Lancaster on the TV series. True to character, Allisyn yesterday wore braided pigtails and her hair was streaked with magenta.
Allisyn agreed to be keynote speaker at the conference, which honors students who raise money for charity, because she wants to inspire kids to do philanthropic work, and because she has ties to Long Island. Her father, Steve, who accompanied his daughter to the conference Friday along with her mother, Anji, and 8-year-old sister, Josie, grew up in Garden City and Hempstead and graduated from Southold High School in 1987.
Though the Arms live in Glendale, Calif., they visit Long Island frequently to see Allisyn’s paternal grandparents, and Allisyn told the crowd they might bump into her in Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove.
Kirti Nath, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at The Laurel Hill School in Setauket, got to speak one-to-one with Allisyn and get an autographed photo because classmate Elizabeth Manning won an essay contest detailing a community service project that could be accomplished locally. All the attendees from her school got to meet Allisyn one-to-one, though Elizabeth was sick and couldn’t attend.
Groups honored Friday were Project HEAL, a Commack High School-based organization that raises money to help people with eating disorders pay for medical treatment; Go Good, based at Ward Melville High School, which raises money for a variety of charities; Children Helping Children, begun by Jourdan Urbach, now a sophomore at Yale, when he was growing up in Roslyn; and One Is Greater Than None, started by a group of friends at JFK High School in Bellmore to raise money to help Ghanian children.