Independence High Student Starts Nonprofit

A girl smiles
  • Published September 26, 2023

    An Independence High student is finding time in her busy schedule to help others. Sydney Sternagel, a junior at IHS, recently started her own nonprofit called Make Y'All Smile.

    "I actually started this in May," Sydney said. "The whole idea is to help children who have siblings who are ill. Think about Make-A-Wish. They usually focus on the child who's sick, but often times there is a sibling on the sidelines who is also going through a lot of trouble. It's very personal to me because my brother was once that sick kid, and I was always that sibling on the side."

    Sydney's brother was diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) at a young age, and Sydney's own childhood was affected because of it. She wants to help other children have the kind of experiences that she missed out on.

    "Giving back to the community is very important to me because I look back at everything that was done for my own family," she said. 

    Though still in its beginning stages, Sydney has great hope that Make Y'All Smile will benefit families in the community who are struggling. She has already gone through the process of completing the 501(c)(3) paperwork and is working with local businesses to line up possible events and experiences for the families she will work with.

    "Once I got the letter that my nonprofit was approved, I was able to start reaching out to hospitals and other places," Sydney said. "Right now, we're in that difficult stage where we just don't have any kids yet. Some days I may spend two hours writing emails for community outreach. It's time-consuming, but it's fun. I've always wanted to do something like this. The people here are really willing to give back to their community."

    Sydney has plans to offer tickets to athletic events or concerts to families in need. On a smaller scale, she wants to provide opportunities for kids to spend one-on-one time with their parents at ice skating rinks and other fun locations. Right now, Sydney's goal is to spread the word about her nonprofit to families who may be interested in taking part.

    "If you know someone who could benefit from the program, please contact me through our website," Sydney said. "Parents are so busy, especially if you have a sick child. Even if you could just suggest someone who could benefit from this would be so helpful."