hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

June 13, 2013

Meet Haverhill's whiz kid

From volunteerism to straight A's to dancing, this 10-year-old does almost everything

By Mike LaBella
Staff Writer

---- — Her fourth-grade teacher considers her a role model for other students.

Her mother says she has boundless energy and is always looking for opportunities to help others.

She’s only 10 years old, but Ryleigh Storm Cyr has developed a resume of volunteerism and achievements that would rival those of many adults.

Not that she’s thinking of a career at such a young age. For now, she’s happy to spend her time studying and dancing, visiting elderly people in nursing homes, and setting aside her allowance for causes such as donating Build-a-Bears to autistic children.

“I buy a bear, dress it up and donate it to kids who have autism,” Ryleigh said. “I’ve done it twice so far and I want to continue doing it.”

Ryleigh, a straight A student at Pentucket Lake Elementary School, has her hands into many things. She’s a student council representative as well as a competitive dancer at Just Dance Complex in North Andover.

“In the classroom, she sets high goals for herself and always strives to meet them,” said Amanda Roche, Ryleigh’s fourth-grade teacher. “She participates in all of our classroom activities with a positive, upbeat attitude and her bright personality is a great model for other students.”

As a member of her school’s “Chief’s Council,” Ryleigh is always dedicated to attending the meetings and offering ideas that help others, Roche said, adding that Ryleigh is a very generous student. Roche said that one day Ryleigh brought in a book from her personal library to donate to her classroom library so other children could read it.

“Her level of personal responsibility is amazing for a girl her age,” Roche said.

“Right now, the student council is thinking about spirit week and what we can do,” Ryleigh said. “Every Friday, we do recycling and take all the bins and dump them out. And at assemblies, we put all the chairs back on racks and we sometimes get a cool reward like a pencil or an eraser.”

For this young girl, there isn’t enough time in a day to do everything she’d like to do. Along with her school work, she takes guitar lessons, is a member of her school’s track and field team, and dances five days a week, on average. She said dancing is a way she can express herself.

But it’s her effort to help others that really gives her a sense of satisfaction, such as launching an annual charity in 2012. Through the charity, in lieu of birthday gifts, every year she asks her party guests to bring gently worn or new winter coats, boots and other winter gear. She donates the items to underprivileged children at the Ingalls School in Lynn. She also donates all of her gently worn clothes and toys to the Salvation Army and Ruth’s Place thrift shop.

“This (charitable clothing collection) caused a tidal wave of donations from many people who heard through the grape vine,” said Ryleigh’s mother, Jessica Cyr. “Last year she collected 103 winter items and this year her goal is 500 items.”

“I just want to help other kids,” Ryleigh said. “I hear about people who need help and my mom’s a nurse who tells me about kids and I think about ways to help them.”

Every year when the city holds its annual spring cleaning in celebration of Earth Day, Ryleigh picks up the litter in her Merrill Avenue neighborhood.

She also researches and conducts her own science experiments and hopes to find a cure for cancer someday. Finding a cure is close to her heart, her mother said, because Ryleigh watched her godfather and close friends lose their battles with the disease.

“I really like chemistry and science, and sometimes I buy science kits,” Ryleigh said. “Right now, I’m making crystallized rock candy. I also do things that fizz and experiments with acids and base.”

Maybe she’ll be a scientist, or maybe a teacher, as she loves teaching her little cousin how to read.

“Sometimes I read books to her and, when she has trouble with a word, I tell her to sound it out,” Ryleigh said. “I write short stories and I’d like to write a book someday.

“My favorite subject is writing and, if I was a teacher, I’d help kids learn to read and write,” she said.

When a new student arrived at her school this year and the school was informed he had an allergy to peanuts, Ryleigh noticed that he was sitting alone at a lunch table every day, even though other children were allowed to sit with him. Ryleigh decided to be the first to make the bold move of sitting with the boy, and then other children followed her lead.

“Now we all sit with him every single day, unless we have something with peanuts, then we have to go to another table,” Ryleigh said. “I think he feels like he has friends now.”

Ryleigh is also a dedicated, hard-working and award-winning dancer who competes in seven different routines including tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, acrobatics, lyrical acrobatics, and two different jazz routines.

“It’s really fun to be with my friends and dance at the same time,” Ryleigh said.

“I only watch TV in the morning for a few minutes when having breakfast,” Ryleigh said. “I watch a little on the weekend, but I’m usually doing other stuff, including dance.”

“One day she came home and said she wanted to run track and I said, ‘all you have available is Thursday,” her mother said. “She said, ‘Well look mom, I can do it. I don’t have anything going on and I want to try it. It will be fun.’”

Jessica Cyr said her daughter will dance the main role of Avalanna Routh in this year’s dance recital at Merrimack College on June 22. Avalanna was a 6-year-old girl from Merrimac who died of brain cancer last year.

“Everything she does she comes up with on her own,” Jessica Cyr said. “She does these things because she really wants to.”

Ryleigh formerly played in the Haverhill Girls Softball league and Haverhill Pal Soccer league and participated in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer 5-mile walk in Boston, which she donates to every year. She’s a member of the Haverhill YMCA and is an avid skier at Bradford Ski.

“Sometimes I hear about people who are amazing, yet they are average people,” Ryleigh said. “I want to be like them because they are really good people.”