Shining Star: Elena Polinski

Shining Stars

A local teen has earned national recognition for her volunteer efforts, but it's her humble desire to help that makes her a shining star.

She was volunteering at an event for special needs children when 17-year-old Elena Polinski, of Moundsville, realized there was a void in activities offered to kids in the Ohio Valley.

So she put together her own program, and she striking a chord with her students.

The soon to be high school senior, started strumming the guitar at the age of 7.

“I watched the movie ‘Walk the Line’ with Jonny Cash and June Carter, and I told my dad that I wanted a guitar and he went out and bought me one and I started playing.”

Elena fell in love with learning how to play the guitar, and she wants others to experience the same joy.

One of her students – 10-year-old Holden Estel -- has Williams Syndrome. His mother says he can hear music, but he can't read it.

That's why Elena came up with a color-coded system to help Holden learn.

“You want the best for your child, and you want them to do whatever they want, and when somebody says you just can't, then you have to do your best,” Holden’s mother, Jessie said.

Over the last two years, Elena has helped more than a dozen special needs students through a program she created called “The miracle of music,” supported by the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley.

“These kids don't get an opportunity. The public, unfortunately, doesn't understand,” said Lorraine McCardle of the Miracle League. “These kids want do just like everyone else, and if you make it adaptable, they can do it as Elena has done.”

Elena says it's the little things, like a smile, that are the most rewarding.

“I like their reactions,” Elana said. “Like when me and (student) Kyle (Kinney) first got the G chord, his smile made me feel good.”

Elena's efforts, aren't going unnoticed.

She recently traveled to Washington D.C., representing West Virginia as one of the state’s top teen volunteers for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.

There she met Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps, and swapped stories with other standout teens from across the country.

But at the end of the day, Elena says it's all about the music.

“I spend all my time doing music,” Elana said. “I practice all the time, and I just feel like it's an honor to give Holden and Kyle and all my other students an opportunity to play music because of how much it's impacted my life personally.”

Elena hopes to continue the Miracle of Music program next summer before she goes off to college. Right now, she's looking into a music therapy program at WVU.

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