Kym Prewitt oversaw the Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills “YLVH” program for 18 years before retiring from Vestavia Hills City Schools in May 2023. RISE, which stands for Rebels Impact through Service and Engagement, is a semester-long service project that was the brainchild of the YLVH class of 2019. While the YLVH program was focused on raising money and awareness for cancer research programs, RISE was created so the students could choose where the funds would go from year to year. The students chose to fundraise for the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, specifically the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology unit. RISE students have been supporting this organization ever since. Here, Kym offers her thoughts and congratulations to the students who have helped carry on this program’s mission.

Tell our readers about what RISE is and the importance of student involvement within the program.

Within RISE, there are two main areas of engagement: teams and committees. Open to students in grades 9-12, the goal is 100 percent participation. These teams of students come up with ways to serve the community while raising money for cancer research. Some examples of team activities include a soccer clinic for special needs students, hiding Easter eggs for the Easter bunny, making and selling candles to honor cancer survivors, neighborhood lemonade stands, baby-sitting, yard work and washing cars. Student engagement is important because they learn how to work together, be creative, plan the details, properly follow-up and so much more in the process.

How many students are involved with RISE, and what are some of the events they plan?

As of the 2022-23 school year, 1,003 students made up all of the RISE teams. Two hundred and twenty-nine students served on the planning committees and executed eight major events, including the Rebel Run 5K, the Sadie Hawkins Dance and a character breakfast with more than 400 children in attendance. In 2019, the students put on a “Concert for a Cure,” featuring American Idol contestant and VHHS graduate Walker Burroughs. Nearly 830 people attended this concert.

How much money have RISE students raised?

RISE students have raised $1,044,966 for the fight against cancer in the five years since its inception.

How does volunteering and helping fundraise for local causes personally impact RISE students?

Yes, money will be raised, but in the process, unlikely friendships will form, work ethic will be developed and character will be built, and it will all be accomplished through teamwork, sweat and compassion. Year in and year out, these students experience the kind of leadership they will carry on and apply throughout their lives. It is this compassionate leadership that makes a difference in others’ lives.

What events can patrons look forward to in the 2023-24 school year?

There are always surprise events and opportunities that present themselves, but the events that are planned so far include the Witches Ride, the Rebel Run 5K and Fun Run, Kids’ Day and to end the semester, RISE Day.

Those interested in joining or learning more about RISE can visit here.