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Autumn Weinig, a senior defender for the Wilde Lake girls' lacrosse team, was named the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month.
Weinig -- who has taken a leading role in several extracurricular activities, including one to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses -- was nominated for the award by Wilde Lake girls' lacrosse head coach Michael Rhodovi.
"Character is what you're doing when nobody's watching. I'm a firm believer in trying to acknowledge that so that others can see her example that she leaves," Rhodovi said. "She's a big part of that, too. She wants to lead by example. She wants to show others, 'Hey, this is how things can be done and there's always a better way and don't ever count yourself out.'"
Weinig has played on Wilde Lake's varsity lacrosse squad the past four years -- but she wasn't always a defender. She was a goalie on the junior varsity team as a freshman when Rhodovi brought her up to play in two games toward the end of the varsity squad's season. Rhodovi then moved her to defense the following year to take advantage of her athleticism, and she's remained at that spot since -- all while being active in the community.
"[Rhodovi] kind of gives me free reign to work and to improve the team and to improve our community connection," Weinig said. "Everything else I do tends to eventually make its way back to lacrosse."
Weinig has taken part in projects with Leadership U in Howard County, the HEADstrong Foundation, National Honor Society, French Honor Society and Wilde Lake's student government. Her work with Leadership U was particularly impactful.
She interviewed for a position in Leadership U, a program designed to help kids solve real-world problems and develop leadership skills, as a junior at Wilde Lake and was accepted. Those who were accepted into the program were split into groups, and each group was assigned a topic to delve into. Weinig's group was tasked with domestic violence, and the students eventually had to present what it learned about the topic to more than 200 people.
The group teamed up with HopeWorks of Howard County, which provides support for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual assault. The group met with HopeWorks' staff for advice on what direction to take regarding the domestic violence topic, and the students decided to focus on sexual assault on college campuses. HopeWorks helped educate them about sexual assault on college campuses and advised them on how to discuss the topic.
"They basically explained that it's such an underreported thing that this category of people, they haven't been able to break through to and get to come in and get to speak about it," Weinig said. "What they wanted to do was they wanted more youth to get involved with talking about it and starting a conversation."
The group eventually decided to show "The Hunting Ground," a Netflix documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, and held a forum after the film for everyone watching to discuss. Weinig led the forum.
"[There] were just difficult questions for students to have to discuss with their parents in the room, and I thought she handled herself really well and was able to lead discussions," Weinig's mother, Trish, said. "I think at that point is when we really started to realize her leadership skills."
Weinig will attend Clemson University in the fall as part of their Captain Honors program; she has a cumulative 4.6 GPA at Wilde Lake. She'll study political science and would like to become a lawyer after college. She also hopes to play club lacrosse.
"She doesn't have an off switch," Rhodovi said. "There's not one particular story. She is the story. She's constantly looking for ways to improve or help those around her."
Watch video of the award presentation:
Kendra and Orlandra Chambers, twin sisters and senior captains on Largo High School's cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams this year, were also named U.S. Army Impact Players of the Month.
"They just became more mature runners and mature kids as the years went on and became leaders by just helping the young kids, the ninth graders and 10th graders and showing people what to do and letting people understand how our program runs," said Darryl Hamilton, the head coach of all three running teams at Largo.
Kendra and Orlandra began running during their freshman year at Largo once they saw how much fun their cousin, Shandae Henry, had running at Potomac High School. Throughout the course of their four years at Largo, the twins became stalwarts for Hamilton.
Kendra and Orlandra each ran three-mile races in cross country, specialized in the 300- and 500-meter races in indoor track and a variety of events for outdoor track. Kendra's favorite outdoor event is the 200-meter, while Orlandra's is the 400.
Kendra and Orlandra have led exercises and drills for the running teams throughout the school year, but their leadership extends beyond the team to the next generation of runners in Prince George's County. They take part in Hamilton's "Fast Track Club," which meets at Largo after the high school team's practices and during the summer. The club is for ages 8-14.
"When we come, the kids are there and they're like, 'Oh my God, you guys are so good,'" Orlandra said. "Kids are always interested in people that are a lot older than them, and since they're interested, why not help them learn? Because kids grasp a lot of information quickly."
Kendra and Orlandra will soon attend Chicago State University, but they have other duties to attend to first.
Both have enlisted in the Army Reserve, a track their mother, Mackeda, has long encouraged. They joined the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps in high school to get a feel for the military.
The twins eventually met an Army recruiter, who helped them out with the process of enlisting in the Army Reserve. Both will go to basic training toward the end of the summer and will graduate in December; they plan to become bridge crewmembers and work alongside engineers.
"My mom was aiming for us to go into the military, so I decided to incorporate me wanting to go to college and my mom wanting me to go into the military all in one," Kendra said.
Hamilton, 57, was in the Air Force Reserve from 1981-1987, and he knows Kendra and Orlandra have the qualities to be successful in the Army Reserve.
"Discipline, hard work and being committed," Hamilton said. "That's what it takes to be in the service."
The twins will begin attending Chicago State in January 2020. Kendra will study biology, while Orlandra plans to enter a pre-dental track. They both plan to run for the Cougars.
"Track is a huge part of my life. If I didn't run track, I don't know how I would be right now," Kendra said. "It's something I like mainly because it challenges me to do better, and I incorporate it in my life doing everything."
Watch video of the award presentation:
To nominate a student-athlete for the U.S. Army Impact Player award, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Impact.
The Impact Player of the Month is given to an individual who has impacted his or her team in a positive way.
Photo Credits: Matt Stovall/PressBox and John Coulson/PressBox