CHAUMONT — Lyme Central School District sophomore Ashlyn Hilts is a versatile young woman, adept at a variety of things ranging from playing flute to hunting deer and on June 8, she competed at the Miss New York’s Outstanding Teen Competition in Peekskill.

But she is making a name for herself for her support of the arts and other organizations and raising money for them.

Ashlyn, 16, first got involved with raising money for the arts a few years ago as she assisted in collecting donations for her school district’s marching band and its booster organization.

“I was able to see first-hand how rewarding it is and how a much necessity it is to have somebody promoting the arts,” said Ashlyn, the daughter of Paul and Shari Hilts.

“I’ve seen kids take on little causes, but not to this extent,” said Michelle Bariteau, instrumental music teacher at Lyme Central. “I’ve taught for 33 years overall, and she’s the only one. She’s a very driven young lady. She expects a lot of herself as far as outcomes, whether school work or music or even the fundraising.”

Ms. Bariteau, the district’s former marching band director, is in her 31st year as a teacher at Lyme and will retire at the end of the school year. She resigned in December as marching band director and a replacement for that task is yet to be found.

Mrs. Bariteau is also Ashlyn’s private flute instructor. The retiring teacher will continue with giving lessons in her retirement. Mrs. Bariteau also plays flute with the Clayton Community Band and will continue in that role during retirement. She’ll also do more sewing “and basically just relax.”

“I’ve had fantastic parental, community support here for 31 years,” Ms. Bariteau said. “It’s amazing.”

Ashlyn was named Miss Northern New York’s Outstanding Teen 2018 in September in Copenhagen. Statewide, the contest recognizes young women ages 13 to 17 for their talents, scholastic achievement and community service. Her platform was supporting the arts.

Sarah Lawrence, “Big Apple” Outstanding Teen, was named Miss NY Outstanding Teen on June 8. The teen pageant is a subsidiary of the Miss New York Scholarship Organization.

“Whether or not I continue to compete, I know I’ll be continuing to try to promote the arts,” Ashlyn said before the pageant. “I’ve had such a great time doing it this past year I can’t see how I could just stop. I need to keep doing it because I know I’m making a difference.”

Her support for the arts has included organizing a talent show and a craft fair. She even learned how to sew quilts to be raffled off. She also raised $645 for Children’s Miracle Network.

As for her own artistic endeavors, she has proven herself to be quite an adept flute player, which is the talent she brought to the teen pageant in Peekskill at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater.

Earlier this year, Ashlyn met with the Sackets Harbor American Legion auxiliary about hosting a craft fair, which was held April 27 at the legion.

Each year, the Sackets Harbor Auxiliary Scholarship Fund awards a $500 scholarship and a $100 award to a music student. Recipients are named at commencement ceremonies.

“We put on a craft fair together and raised $840 for the scholarship fund,” Ashlyn said.

She approached First Presbyterian Church in Watertown about holding a “talent showcase” to benefit Children’s Miracle Network. The May 18 showcase raised $645 for CMN. The Belleville Henderson Middle School Band, consisting of fifth- and sixth-graders, found out about the talent showcase and wanted to do something on its own to support it.

“One of the little girls in the band decided she wanted to help out and suggested they help me raise money,” Ashlyn said. “So they went around getting donations. They raised about $170 and mailed me a check with a cute note.”

In return, Ashlyn went to visit the young musicians.

“It’s so rewarding to meet the people you’re affecting and to know I’m doing something,” she said.

“She’s been a very driven child since birth, pretty much,” said Mrs. Hilts. “I think having an older sibling inspired her to be like him. I kind of think it’s more of an unspoken rivalry with her brother in some of the things where she has to best him. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she’s right on his tail.”

Ashlyn’s brother, Christopher, graduated from Lyme Central in 2018. He’s an Eagle Scout and attends Jefferson Community College, Watertown, studying criminal justice.

Ashlyn took up flute as an instrument in fourth grade.

“I knew I wanted to play an instrument,” she said. “I didn’t have a specific reason. But I was told the flute players got to sit in the front row. That’s how I decided, and I’ve played ever since.”

She was accepted into New York State School Music Association’s Area All-State grouping as first flute, fourth chair, has performed in Bi-County Band as first flute, third chair, and in late May was working at her piece to perform at the teen state pageant.

She hopes to pursue a career in “orthopedics of some sort.”

“I’m shooting high, but I’m confident I’ll land somewhere around orthopedics,” she said.

She didn’t land as a finalist at the state teen competition, but Ashlyn isn’t discouraged.

“My experience definitely surpassed my expectations,” she said. “I was always told that the experience, learning opportunities and friendships would be more important than the outcome, but I never would’ve expected that to be as true as it really was.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Features writer

Multiple award-winning writer of life in the north country

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