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Tinley Park teen working to grant her own wishes

Amber Holup inside The Bridge Teen Center OrlPark. Amber helped center get grant one uses for money will be future

Amber Holup inside The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park. Amber helped the center get a grant and one of the uses for the money will be a future cleaning day, which will save the center about $600. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 9, 2012 6:01AM



Adults who know Amber Holup say she is a budding entrepreneur.

The 14-year-old Tinley Park girl said her goal to eventually earn degrees in nonprofit management and business is a result of her involvement with The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park. She already has helped the nonprofit earn a grant.

“I’d love to be one of those people who could open a satellite location (of the center). My dream job,” Holup said. “The Bridge is definitely in my long-term plans.”

Short term, the Tinley Park High School freshman is laying the foundation for her future. Holup is taking an accounting class for entrepreneurs, and she has joined the school’s golf team to prepare for all the business networking she’s planning to do on the course.

“When it’s not golf season, I’m (at the teen center) three to four times a week,” Holup said.

Holup has the blessings of her parents, Craig and April Holup, for her involvement and commitment to the center.

After being bullied in junior high, Holup said she and her mom visited the center looking for an alternative social outlet for Amber. They both liked what they saw.

“My mom heard good things about (the center),” Holup said. “It’s like a safe haven for teenagers. A lot of people who come here have been bullied, and they overcome it here.”

Holup said being able to “openly talk about (the bullying)” and participating in the Bridge’s “Making New Friends” program transformed her into a more confident person.

Despite Holup’s initial shyness, teen center co-owners Priscilla and Rob Steinmetz saw something special in her — something Priscilla Steinmetz describes in bold terms: ”This child has greatness in her,” she said of Holup.

The Steinmetzes validated their confidence by choosing Holup to be the one to apply for a $500 “Shine On” grant from Azteca Foods as part of the company’s reward program for teens and teen groups whose volunteer efforts benefit their communities.

“Amber is just a student that, since coming to the Bridge Teen Center, has grown by leaps and bounds,” Priscilla Steinmetz said. “Whenever we see that greatness inside of a young person, we want to be alongside them, encouraging them and helping them to grow.”

Holup saw applying for the grant as an opportunity to give back to the center.

In the most challenging part of the grant-writing experience — a 500-word essay — Holup described the mission of the Bridge and told how the funds would be used as part of the center’s community service activities.

Holup’s personal thoughts and experiences added the finishing touch.

“I definitely shared my story of how I’ve been affected (by the center),” Holup said. “I also included that the kids are going to be learning how to give back to the community through the programs that the Azteca grant will fund, and how we’re going to grow from it.”

Holup said her own growth includes making new “Bridge friends” and improved communication skills, which have allowed her to move into a role that may have seemed unthinkable a short time ago.

Steinmetz said Holup is the member of choice to welcome potential new members who are shy or withdrawn.

Holup uses her newfound skills beyond the Bridge environment. She is a member of the high school key club, Freshmen Leadership, and student council, and helps with children’s activities at Cherry Hill Church of Christ in New Lenox, where she, her parents and her sisters, Sarah, 21, and Emily, 18, are members.

Holup encourages other teens to join her at the Bridge Teen Center, a place Steinmetz described as a “melting pot” of students from many schools and communities, and a place where there are no labels.

“I’ve gained a lot of new friends at the Bridge,” Holup said. “My Bridge friends accept me for who I am and they don’t judge me. I would say when you come to the Bridge, you’re welcomed. It’s a safe environment.”



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