Fifth-grader honored by state PTA |

Fifth-grader honored by state PTA

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Rebecca Hanzlik, 11, walks her 6-month-old Labrador Bella down Robinson Street Sunday. Hanzlik, was chosen as the 2005-06 Youth Participant of the Year by the state's Parent-Teacher Association.

Watch what you say around Rebecca Hanzlik because the 11-year-old will step in when she hears of those who need help, including the troops overseas.

In April, the fifth-grader overheard her mom, Trina, talking with her dad about a co-worker whose husband was serving in Iraq.

“I was telling (my husband) how supplies were hard to come by – little supplies like gum and deodorant,” Trina said.

Rebecca, who was nearby, interpreted the conversation in an entirely different light – what could she do to help?

Two weeks later, her mom received a call from Rebecca’s elementary school principal making sure it was OK for the girl to do a collection drive.

Over the next several weeks, little items that count came in, like books and Tootsie Rolls. By the time the collection was over, Rebecca had four boxes to send to Iraq.

“I learned that people do really care about the troops in Iraq – a lot,” she said.

Not long after that, she also learned that good deeds do not go unrewarded. Over the loudspeaker at school, she was named the 2005-06 Youth Participant of the Year, chosen by the state’s parent-teacher association.

“They only select one student,” said LeAnne Saarem, president of Fritsch PTA, who spoke with Rebecca’s Principal Dave Aalbers about the nomination.

What impressed judges was her amount of volunteerism. She walks dogs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Reno when she visits there with a friend. She and her mom knit scarves in the winter for Friends in Service Helping and homeless shelters.

“I decided to do these things because I feel sorry for the people that are homeless, and I feel bad for the dogs that are in the shelters because they don’t really have homes,” she said.

She is a camera person for Fritsch’s News Team, and, with others, tapes school events to air once a week.

She volunteers through her church, and her hobbies are endless. She’s danced tap, ballet, jazz and hip-hop with the Western Nevada Performing Arts Center since age 3.

She rises about 6 a.m. on the weekends, and watches just a little TV.

She loves to read; J.K. Rowling is one of her favorite authors. Reading and English are her favorite subjects at school.

“I was very surprised (she won),” her mom said. “I really was. What she does is just be Rebecca. That’s just who she is.”

Saarem, the school’s PTA president, said Rebecca seemed the natural choice for the nomination.

“Immediately, when I went to the principal asking who would be good to nominate, her name was the first to come up,” she said.

This summer, Rebecca will be part of Young Volunteers of America, visit the Carson City Senior Citizens Center, and go to summer camp in California.

Mostly, she just likes to keep busy. When she heads off to Carson Middle School in the fall, her new classes should help with that.

“I knew I was nominated, but I didn’t know I was going to win,” Rebecca said. “I felt happy – I really can’t explain it.”

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.