Brian Johnson/AFN Ahwatukee Foothills residents Josephine Yang (left) and MaryJo Kolze were congratulated Tuesday by Ironwood Library volunteer Pam Nunes for winning a college scholarship for future book purchases. Yang will be attending ASU and pursuing a degree in piano performance, while Kolze will attend Missouri State where she will play volleyball and take pre-med courses. Aug. 3, 2010

Volunteering can certainly have its benefits.

The Ironwood Library awarded three students a $1,000 grant on Tuesday for taking time out of their last summer of freedom, their last summer before they make the leap to college, to help out around the library.

MaryJo Kolze, Josephine Yang and Spencer McDonald were chosen out of a very deserving group of applicants, which made the decision very difficult, said Ironwood Branch Manager Alice Houlihan.

"It was hard to say ‘no' to the other applicants," Houlihan said. "But these three just stood out a little bit more."

The three winners were very active inside and out of school and were very devoted to their volunteer work, Houlihan said. The grant will go towards the purchase of text books.

With their first day of freshman year around the corner, they know the road ahead, to college and beyond, will be difficult. The students know that and they are excited for what the future has in store.

One of them in particular is motivated by a source close to her heart.

Driven by family circumstances, Kolze, 18, will pursue a degree in biology at Missouri State University in the fall. Her sister LoriAnne, 14, has a rare mitochondrial disorder that has taken away a host of things, including her ability to speak and walk on her own.

Kolze, who graduated from the Peggy Payne Academy at McClintock High School, wants to find a cure for the disorder that may stem from a mutation in genetic code.

"(Mitochondrial disorders) have not been researched as much and I want to be part of finding an answer for them," Kolze said.

A goal to help others was a common theme for the people gathered in attendance on Tuesday.

Yang, 18, is attending Arizona State University in the fall to explore further her love of music. She has many goals for the future, one of them being a career in music therapy.

"Music can be a very important tool in helping people," she said. "I would also like to become a concert pianist one day."

But she knows how difficult that path can be.

"I want to practice at least five hours a day in college," the Desert Vista graduate said. "There are so few people who become concert pianists, and I know it is going to be hard."

Ironwood Library accepts 60 volunteers during the summer months and up to 45 at a time throughout the rest of the year. Volunteers become eligible for the grant after they have volunteered a full year prior to applying. They must submit an application, resume, and the letter of acceptance from their chose college.

Friends of Ironwood Library, a volunteer organization now disbanded, started the grant program four years ago using money generated from selling used books. A former member of the organization said the library started to rely more heavily on volunteers due to budget cuts.

"They are very important and critical to the success of Ironwood Library," Pam Nunes, former treasurer for the group, said. "This is our way of thanking them for all the hard work they have done."

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