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SHHS Senior Sophie Taylor Wins Westchester County Youth Service Award

“Exhibiting a commitment to improving society through leadership and volunteerism” is the criteria for the Westchester Country Youth Board’s Service Award, a description that encapsulates SHHS Senior Sophie Taylor’s dedication to service as a winner of the 2022 Award. The ceremony was held on December 19th.

Sophie recognized the local issue of food and clothing insecurity in the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow communities and felt compelled to help. She had always enjoyed thrift shopping and, after a visit to Wisconsin where she went thrifting and saw just how many people donate like-new clothing, she came up with the idea of creating a thrift shop at Sleepy Hollow High School. Partnering with the Community Wardrobe run by the PTA and Daphne Uviller, Sophie went in search of clothing items that high school students would actually wear. With guidance and support from SHHS Social Worker Ms. Amy Walsh, who Sophie calls “my anchor in this process,” she then set up shop in Ms. Walsh’s room. 

"The idea got out there that we had some great stuff and that people could just come and take whatever they want,” said Sophie. With companies like Thred-up and Poshmark in the thrift business, the timing was right for students to appreciate the benefits of thrifting. Thrifting enables shoppers to create a one-of-a-kind wardrobe, get high-quality fashion at lower prices and, best of all, give a second chance to clothing that may otherwise end up in a landfill.  Sophie flipped the script, presenting up-cycled second-hand clothing as pre-loved. In short, she made thrifting cool.

“There is such an excess of clothing in our country and we really see that around here. People want to donate and why not help people within my own community? There’s a huge environmental element to all this, too. Rather than wasting clothes or even just keeping them without using them, there are so many people who can benefit and we don’t need to use the resources to make more,” stated Sophie. 

But Sophie didn’t stop there! In addition to securing donations for day-to-day wear, she proactively reached out to brand-name companies, like trendy Los Angeles-based company Lucy in The Sky to let them know about her initiative. The company responded in kind, supplying Sophie’s thrift shop with brand new prom dresses to complement an effort that Ms. Walsh had started a few years ago to make dresses available for free.

It was this commitment to Sophie's dedication to service and social justice at SHHS and in the Sleepy Hollow community that prompted SHHS Principal Debbie Brand to nominate Sophie for the 2022 Westchester County Youth Bureau Service Award. 

Principal Brand commended Sophie, saying that her most distinguishing quality is her ability to affect the people around her. “She also uses her leadership skills to make our community a more welcoming place,” said Principal Brand. “Not only that, thrifting has really become a popular pastime in our school. Students from all income levels take part and brag about their finds, which has had the wonderful effect of destigmatizing the need some students have to use the thrift store for their basic wardrobe.” 

Upon receiving the award, Taylor shared that she feels “really proud and gets so excited when I see people wearing the clothes that came from our thrift store. This is such a diverse community and there's a really strong sense here of people wanting to help and support one another. I'm happy to be a part of it.”