Young Life Lite

"Senior Project." The words can spark fear into the heartiest of students. So why then would Lizzy Overton, a recent graduate from Broadneck High School (BHS) outside of Annapolis, Maryland, voluntarily decide to undertake a “personal” senior project of epic proportions?

"Lizzy is the sweetest girl of all time," said Andrew Boyd, Lizzy’s area director at BHS. "That seems like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Everyone would say she’s the nicest, most genuine person ever. Lizzy writes thank you notes to the parents who host Campaigners and club. When she would babysit at our house she would write us a thank you note. She once returned babysitting money because she felt sitting for my kids was benefit enough!"

Young Life started at BHS during Lizzy’s sophomore year. “It was the best experience of my life,” she said. “In school, I really felt like an outsider, but at club and Campaigners I didn’t need to worry about my insecurities.” The newfound strength emboldened Lizzy to help others. “I noticed so many people at school struggling and it made me sad. I thought, ‘Why don’t I do something to brighten their day?’”

Early in her junior year Lizzy handed out encouragement cards to nearly 100 students. “I couldn’t believe how happy people were to receive them. I thought, ‘Wow, God, you’re really using me to do something here.’”

That spring she sensed another prompting. “I felt God saying, ‘Lizzy, you know you have the gift of encouragement. Why don’t you write a book?’”

So Lizzy saved up money for a year to pay for the book, which would be a graduation gift to her 450 fellow classmates. By the spring of 2015, she had 600 books ready to pass out to her class, teachers, friends and even strangers — anyone who needed a lift. Entitled The Encouragement Project: Make a Difference, the book included inspirational quotes, pictures, humor, Scripture and Lizzy’s personal story.

The first 50 went to her Campaigner group, and the reaction was spectacular. “They were so thankful,” Lizzy said. “Some offered to help with the cost and others asked for copies to give to their friends.”

Over the years, Lizzy’s reputation had spread throughout the school and the encourager was about to become the “encouragee.” The week of prom, Lizzy discovered her fellow seniors had nominated her for Prom Court — this from the class that had already voted her “Most Likely to Make You Smile.” Speechless over the recognition, Lizzy, as the saying goes, was “thrilled just to be nominated.”

Flash forward to prom night where — as if on cue — the DJ announced, “And the BHS class of 2015 Prom Queen is … Lizzy Overton!”

“When they called my name, everyone started chanting ‘Lizzy! Lizzy!’ and patting me on the back. It was the most wonderful moment of my life. It was like a Cinderella story.”

“When they announced the results,” Boyd said, “my phone did not stop blowing up for an hour with kids texting me how awesome it was she had won.”

“I still get goose bumps thinking about it,” Lizzy said. “I guess I kind of made a difference because I can’t think of any other reason why they’d nominate me. I think people saw God’s love shining through me.”

The next week Lizzy returned to her preferred role: queen of encouragement. After the graduation rehearsal, Lizzy stood at a table with her mom and friends passing out the encouragement books to the senior class. The books were an immediate hit, Boyd said. “Lizzy touched her entire graduating class.”

Today Lizzy’s preparing for a counseling career, where she’ll treat everyone God brings her way as anything but a “project.”