When examining the life of Britney Lingerfelt, itâ€™s no surprise the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault selected her as one of only 18 Youth Advisory Board members.
â€œSheâ€™s grown up around the shelter, and sheâ€™s seen the things that have happened to people,â€ said Vicky Lingerfelt, the executive director of the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who is also Britneyâ€™s mother.
Starting at a very young age, Britney helped her mother at Amyâ€™s House, a Lincolnton shelter for abused women and their children.
â€œI grew up around it, and I know a lot about it,â€ said Britney, who is currently a senior at West Lincoln High School.
Britney volunteered in different ways over the years, largely with the children who came through the shelter.
Sheâ€™s helped with their homework and taken them to the movies. Sheâ€™s babysat while their mothers have gone to doctors and lawyers and to court.
These days she spends much of her time at Purple Shoe Thrift Shop in Lincolnton, which benefits the shelter.
â€œJust anything thatâ€™s hands-on, she is there willing and ready to volunteer,â€ Vicky said. â€œShe loves it. I guess she sort of feels like this is part of her.â€
As a member of the Youth Advisory Board, Britney will help plan Outreach/Awareness Days in six counties, a summer youth conference and interactive workshops about violence prevention.
Britney will attend her first conference Dec. 16 in Raleigh. She is one of two high-school students on the Youth Advisory Board. All the other members will be older.
â€œIt makes me a little nervous,â€ Britney said.
Even so, sheâ€™s excited about the opportunity. It wasnâ€™t easy to earn the position â€“ besides her years of volunteer work, Britney also had to write a grant-like application to be accepted.
â€œI told about the things Iâ€™ve seen,â€ she said.
For a 17-year-old, Britney has seen a lot. She remembers having to wake up in the middle of the night when her mother needed to care for women coming into the shelter.
These same women would later tell her â€œYour Mom, sheâ€™s such a blessing.â€
â€œOne day I want people to say that about me,â€ Britney said.
She is currently studying to become a hair stylist, but Britneyâ€™s long-term plans include becoming a counselor. Her mother is sure sheâ€™ll be proud of her no matter what path she takes.
She thinks Britney would make a wonderful counselor, but she also believes she could have a future as an advocate at the shelter.
â€œI made comments several times that if something happened to me, I knew she could step into my shoes and take my place,â€ Vicky said.
For now, Britney will focus on spreading domestic violence awareness to people her own age.
â€œI think a lot of people know about it, and they might know someone whose experienced it. Theyâ€™re just scared to say anything about it, or donâ€™t want to make it theyâ€™re business,â€ she said. â€œMore people should learn to speak up and say, â€˜No. Thatâ€™s not right.â€™â€
by Sarah Grano