Hamilton hoops star excels in charity work, too

Jan 4, 2016, 2:30 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2016, 10:43 am

Many of us look back on our years in high school and think of how easy it was, especially when compared to the “real world.”

Let’s be honest, though: it wasn’t easy at all.

At least, it was not simple for our high school selves, because the school work combined with trying to have a social life and maybe even a job was quite a bit for a young person to handle.

Except when you are Hamilton High School senior Makayla Filiere.

A four-year varsity basketball player, Makayla is not only a team captain with a 4.72 GPA, but is someone who spends a considerable amount of time helping others. She is involved with Best BuddiesUnified Sports and Feed My Starving Children, and all of that is why she is this month’s Parker & Sons Character Counts Award nominee.

For Feed My Starving Children, she bakes three different types of bread and chocolate chip cookies, selling them and donating all the proceeds to the foundation.

“I’ve volunteered there for the past seven years or so, and then I started my business three years ago,” she said.

As for Best Buddies, she joined her freshman year of high school and has gotten more involved every year since. Now, she’s the group’s historian.

“Last year was really when it started hitting me because I started to see how kids with disabilities aren’t really included in my school,” she said, pointing out how Hamilton has roughly 4,000 students so it is tough to include everyone in everything. “Last year — we have varsity cheerleaders cheer at our basketball games — so I actually was able to help get the Unified cheerleaders to cheer at our home basketball games and then had joint basketball practices with our girls varsity team and the Unified Sports team.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how many people still talk between the two teams and when we see each other in the hallway, we’re really close. This year we’re planning on doing it again, so it just created more bonds.”

Makayla said you can tell from the kids’ faces how much it meant to them to be around the team and practicing with it, and it has helped inspire her to plan even more events to get everyone together.

Being as involved in as much as she is outside of school could be a real burden on Makayla, especially as she is also still trying to figure out what college she would like to attend after high school. But her drive to help others, she said, comes from her parents.

“They’re tough on me, but I’m really fortunate in my life for everything they’ve given me, so I feel like I have an obligation to help other since I’m so fortunate,” she said.

Her mother is a teacher, and though that job is one of the more difficult and stressful out there, Makayla sees how rewarded her mom feels when she helps others and wants that too.

“She just knows there are kids that keep on coming back to her that tell her she’s made a difference in their life; that’s all I want, is to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “Because then I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile in my life.”

It’s the kind of mentality that isn’t often found among people, let alone high school students. But Makayla can’t really imagine living her life without positively impacting others no matter how difficult it may be to juggle being a great student and basketball player as well as doing so much charity work.

“Everybody’s just understanding and they know I may attend one thing and not the other, it’s just a good balance,” she said.

Among the moments that stand out to her are is, for Best Buddies, when she heard from a teacher following one of the games where they invited the cheerleaders to cheer and players to practice that there were kids with disabilities talking about how much fun they had with the experience. That, and seeing how the happy the connections made everyone involved, were enough to get her to press on and help even more.

“Every day whenever I see anybody in Best Buddies, everybody is always happy, everybody always has so much joy,” he said. “It’s like, if we could have just a tiny bit of the joy that they have every day, everything would be so much better. They’re just always so positive.”

With Feed My Starving Children, she said she realized she was making a difference this year when she realized she helped provide over 25,000 meals over the course of her time with the organization.

“It’s small in the scale of the whole world, but 25,000 meals is a lot of meals provided,” he said. “So that’s when it hit me that it’s actually doing something, it’s actually making a difference.”

She’s also a difference-maker on the basketball court. According to MaxPreps.com, Makayla has averaged 12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.6 assists per game this season.

She said she probably would not have had the confidence to do as much work with the various foundations without the leadership qualities she’s gained through basketball. Without the game, she said she probably would not have been involved with Unified Sports and certainly wouldn’t be the organization’s head coach, which she will be doing in the future.

But while basketball is a big part of her life now and could remain so in the future, the main criteria for her in choosing a school is good academics as well as service opportunities. So while she enjoys basketball and would like to keep playing, the sport is not what will guide her life going forward.

“I just know after college I want to have my own non-profit business,” she said. “Or if I don’t have my own non-profit business, whatever I do I want it to be something that’s meaningful and that I can make a difference because I can’t imagine just sitting in a desk all day doing something that’s not helping other people.”

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Hamilton hoops star excels in charity work, too