8th grader proves you're never too young to make a difference

By  | 

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV) - Stephanie Santilli is only 13 years old, but already, she's using leadership to change lives.

Stephanie has been to Washington, DC five times to talk to lawmakers about increasing funds for pancreatic cancer research.

"The fact that I'm making a difference is a great feeling," Santilli said.

When she was just three, the Barbour County, West Virginia resident lost her uncle to pancreatic cancer. Now, Santilli is using that loss to make a difference.

"Any type of cancer harms a lot of people and we can definitely relate to that with how we lost our uncle to pancreatic cancer; so now we do everything we can to stop all the cancers," she explained.

"He'd be very proud of her and she's like him in so many ways," said Stephanie's mother, Annette Santilli.

The eighth grader is a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and has gone to Washington, D.C. five times to speak with lawmakers and advocate for funds for pancreatic cancer research.

"This includes talking to our lawmakers about pancreatic cancer," she said.

Santilli is also part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and has traveled to Charleston, West Virginia to speak out for cancer related issues in front of the state legislature. Through her work, Santilli helped pass the tanning bed bill in 2017 that prohibits anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed.

"She's always thinking of different ways she can get involved and I'm extremely proud of her," said her mother.

Not only is Santilli active in making legislative change and finding a cure for cancer, she is also a leader at her school, Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, W.V.

"I'm the vice president of the eight grade; I ran because I wanted to make a difference," she said.

The teenager is also involved in 4-H club, volunteers at her local library and Heart and Hand, and participates in the American Cancer Society relay for life.

Santilli doesn't let her age stop her from making a difference and wants to spread that message to other young people.

"You can make a change at any age, with any organization," she said. "Getting involved in your community and volunteering, or joining 4-H or running for student council, those are all things you can do to make a change."

Read the original version of this article at wdtv.com.