Asia Whittenberger likes to make people laugh and to keep the atmosphere around her lighthearted.
That’s what drives the Boiling Springs High School senior to do crazy things like buy a bunch of tacos at Chipotle to celebrate National Taco Day or to take over the morning announcements near Christmas to remind fellow students to wear their ugly sweaters on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.
But, there’s another side to Whittenberger. That’s the side that talks frankly about social issues and helps other students with questions they might have.
“I’m a young woman of color. How can you not be involved? I have a different experience than a lot of other kids at this school whether it’s at home or how differently people treat you,” she said.
When asked, Wittenberger advises her fellow students to read books and articles and open their minds to what they have never seen before.
“You learn about what this country was built on, and the things that we’ve ignored for so long and how we can try to fix those wrongs or try to make it better,” she said.
Whittenberger is the founder and president of the Social Issues Club, and an organizer and member of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club in her junior year. She continues to be a member of both clubs as a senior.
Her interest in social issues also led her to be active with the Carlisle YWCA. She had read online that a number of homeless women and women in prison struggle to have access to feminine products, and decided to help out.
“So I bought a lot of feminine products, and I didn’t know what organization to give it to. The first people I saw was the YWCA,” she said.
Since then, Whittenberger has participated as a member for the organization’s Voices of the Future event and volunteer for the Race Against Racism and Carlisle King’s Kamp, where she told the children attending about her mother’s immigration from the Philippines to the United States.
“I admire everything, the sacrifice she had to give to come over here and try to get a better life and all the cultural changes she had to go through,” Whittenberger said.
She’s also a member of the YWCA’s racial justice committee where she works with other members to discuss what’s happening in the world and plan for events such as the annual youth leadership conference or a recent dinner with the Bosnian Community Center.
Her work at the YWCA also gave her the chance to talk to the first black woman who integrated into the South Middleton School District and the opposition she faced, something that people often think didn’t or can’t happen here.
“You ignore it if it doesn’t affect you,” she said. “You shouldn’t. If you have the privilege to ignore it, you should listen to it and try and make a difference.”
Whittenberger has been a goalkeeper for the Bubbler’s soccer team since her freshman year, but has been sidelined by an injury this season, which has been difficult for the usually active young woman.
“Senior night is going to be hard because that will be my first and last time playing this whole season,” she said. “And then, I have to walk off instead of jog off because I can’t jog yet.”
Her interest in social issues is related to her love for statistics and analyzing what those numbers mean as they relate to different populations, the criminal justice system or how people relate to each other. Sometimes she figures statistics out for fun, like making calculations concerning the money she makes refereeing for a youth soccer club or comparing the number of veterans in the country to the number of those veterans who are homeless.
Numbers are facts, she said. They can be skewed, depending on how the polling is done, but the statistics show the facts.
“In politics, people look for ways around it to make it what they want it to be,” she said.
Whittenberger has verbally committed to Saint Joseph’s University, where she will study either politics or sociology. Whittenberger said she loves reading about politics and staying up-to-date, but she also loves to work on social issues.
“I don’t know if I can do with how hectic government is. If I was to be in government, I would want to be behind the scenes, analyzing statistics or different things, policies,” she said.