The suffering in this world can make a heart heavy. Zora Lungren feels deeply about all the sorrow in the world, but she found the best way to deal with her feelings is to turn them into service — she has a “heart of action.”
“She amazes us with her generosity and kindness by volunteering for so many community organizations,” writes Lenna and David Rose, a couple who volunteer at home and abroad. They’re also Lungren’s godparents.
“We remember a day last year that four of Zora’s friends went into town to pick out dresses for the homecoming dance and she decided that it was more important to purchase toys for the Holiday House,” they recalled, also noting how the senior at South Whidbey High School has volunteered for Hearts & Hammers, Heifer International, Good Cheer, a shelter for women, her church and elsewhere, despite the demands on her time from her involvement in WICA, Whidbey Children’s Theater, the school’s Key Club and more.
“My husband and I are a host family this year for a Vietnamese student named Minh,” added Lenna Rose. “Zora has been an amazing mentor for Minh. She has tutored him in world history, and picks him up every morning for school and gives him a ride home. She has made him feel welcome here.
“So often you hear what’s wrong with kids in our world. What you don’t hear enough about are the young people like Zora who are making a difference, making good choices, being respectful and living by her morals and values,” Rose added.
Lungren sits to talk amid the hustle and bustle of her home near Freeland.
“I have lived a privileged life, being born in America, and living on Whidbey Island,” she says.
“I am aware of hardships here on Whidbey and in this country. So compared to most in the world, my life is easy. My heart is so saddened hearing about all of the suffering that goes on.”
She says helping with worthy causes releases some of the sadness. Humor helps, too.
Laughing at herself is an example.
“I am the world’s worst procrastinator. My excuse is that every time I am facing something I really don’t want to do, I get distracted. I even get distracted from my distractions. I must have some form of ADD,” she laughs as her hands start to fly around.
Beyond helping others, one of her great passions is acting.
“I think all children would benefit from some stage experience. It can really help build confidence, something today’s children tied to technology really need,” she says.
She smiles and then laughs loudly.
“But whatever you do, don’t visualize people in their underwear when you’re onstage. I tried that. Whew, that’s an unpleasant vision! It’s better to just look at the exit sign.”
Lungren admires the famous actors who use their power of fame and fortune to help the world be a better place.
“It’s a real responsibility when someone has power to not waste it.”
At South Whidbey High, Lungren has been on the Knowledge Bowl and Hi-Q teams.
“Zora packs a fire and intensity in life, tempered by self-control, that pushes whatever activity she becomes involved in forward,” says science teacher Greg Ballog, her instructor for AP biology when she was a sophomore.
“Zora became my hero when she took on the job of being the only girl on the Hi-Q and Senior Knowledge Bowl teams. Both teams travel quite a bit and Zora has taken on the job of team ‘mom,’” Ballog says.
“When the boys get out of line, she smacks them (verbally) back into line.
“Some of the male team members are more than a foot taller than Zora but she towers over him when she thinks that they need ‘talking to.’
“‘Don’t worry Mr. Ballog, I’ll take care of them,’ was her reassurance to me when the team had to travel down to Vancouver for the state academic competitions — and she did.
“I also have to be in awe of anyone who carries around the complete works of William Shakespeare to read just for fun,” he added.
“I’m a complete nerd, actually,” Lungren laughs.
“I love to celebrate life. For instance, when a friend and I are in a great mood together, I’ll say let’s jump up and down and seize this moment.”
She also believes if something bothers you, it’s better to go ahead and vent a bit.
“I usually vent to my dog Shadow. He’s such a good listener,” she says.
She says clearing her mind helps her enjoy life fully.
“I try to remind myself to be grateful every day for nature and any kindness from others, I mean, look at this beautiful place we live in. It is not pay-per-view, it’s free!”
She unfolds a letter inside a card that a stranger sent her several years ago, a letter she’ll always treasure.
“A few days after I performed in a play, I got this wonderful letter and card in the mail from this kind lady I have never met before. She saw the play and wanted to say how she was touched by it. How cool is that? I never even met her!”
Amanda Reeves, a fellow senior at South Whidbey High, says, “Zora doesn’t just feel sad about the sorrows of others — she puts her feeling heart into action to help in any way she can. She encourages those of us that know her to broaden our horizons and appreciate every opportunity we are given.”
Reeves says knowing Lungren has made her life much fuller and her world kinder.
Lungren has made an international impression.
“This is my first year spending time as an exchange student in the U.S.,” says Minh Nguyen. “And I feel so lucky to stay in South Whidbey, and especially knowing a person like Zora Lungren. She introduced me to all of her friends.
“As I see it, she is a very good ‘soldier’ — she studies hard in the school and always get the high score, and she is a hard-working volunteer. She always wants to help her community,” he adds. “She wants to help all the poor, and homeless people in this area. She volunteers everywhere, it seems, and she always asks me if I want to do that with her, and I agree.
“I rarely did volunteer jobs when I was in my country, so in the beginning I was scared that I could not do the job, but Zora helped me. She explained to me what I have to do and has given me more belief in myself. Nothing can stop her from helping other people.”
Zora Lucille Lungren bio
Born: March 16, 1991 in Bellevue.
Parents: Kevin and Mary Jane Lungren.
Siblings: Sam, a junior in college, and Emma, a sixth-grader
Education: Senior at South Whidbey High School; will attend Tisch School of the Arts in New York.
Years on Whidbey: 18
Hobbies: Volunteering, hiking, memorizing Shakespeare, reading, hanging out with friends, and making new friends, acting, dancing, learning.
South Whidbey people you admire?
At SWHS: Thomas Kramer, Jennifer Gochanour, Steve Durbin (retired), Mark Eager, Greg Ballog, David Nelson and Robert Prosch.
In local theater: Tom Churchill, Don Wilkins, Martha Murphy and Deana Duncan.
What would you like to say to younger people?
“Please look up from your iPods or cell phones every once in a while because we have this beautiful world and we should cherish it.”
What one question would you like to ask God?
“Why is there so much suffering in this world, and what can I do to help alleviate it?”
What would you do if you couldn’t fail at it?
“If I couldn’t fail? Well then, cure cancer, end world hunger, fix the economy, stop violence …”
What does it mean to have class?
“To show manners and modesty and general respect for others.”
What do you wish people would understand about you?
“That when I say ‘Hi, how are you?’ I really want to know.”
What do you wish you never had found out?
“Definitely Santa. Christmas just isn’t the same.”
What others say about Zora Lungren
“Zora is a very special and unique young lady. She has enriched the lives of many at the school and in the community. Her contributions in the arts at school, in the classroom and to the social fabric of the school are exemplary. She is a role model of the highest order. Her family, school and community should be very proud of what she has accomplished. Congratulations to her and the honor she clearly deserves.”
Tom Kramer, SWHS teacher
“Zora always puts forth her best effort in everything she does. She has an infectious uplifting spirit and enthusiasm every day! The skits she creates for Spanish class are always funny and extra-dramatic. Zora is fun, intelligent, curious, insightful, talented, friendly and accepting. She is a wonderful young woman to have in the classroom, and her impact on South Whidbey High School will be felt for a long time to come!”
Jenny Gochanour, SWHS teacher
“She is the kind of person who goes out of their way to make other people around her happy.”
Emma Lungren, sixth-grader and younger sister of Zora
“Zora Lungren is truly one of our most outstanding young adults on Whidbey Island and exemplifies the can-do spirit of this community. She is an energetic, beautiful, intelligent, intuitive and extremely talented, yet humble young woman. Her incredible leadership at SWHS and love and support for friends, family, church and community show her outpouring of care and concern in all that she does. It is truly a privilege to know her, and she gives us all great hope for the future of our younger generation.”
Betty Lightner, volunteer
“I’ve known Zora since she was in preschool along with my son Michael. I admire how she is so fully engaged in life. She has her sleeves rolled up, she is capable, she takes leadership, she doesn’t hesitate going off the high board. She’s a fine wood splitter in her annual endeavor as part of the woodchuck team for Hearts & Hammers. I would describe Zora as the kind of person one would hope to have with them as they go through the rapids in a canoe…steady, present, reliable, aware, capable and with a dandy, genuine full-hearted scream/laugh.”
Jim Scullin, South Whidbey volunteer
“Zora has a truly compassionate nature for everyone, putting the needs of others before her own. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and is so much fun to be around. She has a good heart, and is so deserving of the Hometown Hero title.”
Shelby McDaniel, SWHS senior
“Once Zora gets inspiration, she dedicates herself entirely to whatever it is she is working on. It is really impressive what she is capable of and how much she cares.”
Sam Lungren, Zora’s brother
“Zora has been the president of the Key Club during the past year and an active member of the club throughout high school. She has been an energetic leader and a hands-on worker. She not only works hard herself, but she continually encourages others to be involved. Her ability to get others to give of their time to projects in their school and community is an indication of the special leadership qualities she has.”
Bruce Forbes, Kiwanis member
“An unique attribute about Zora is her ability to go forth with out a lot of angst and self-consciousness. She just does what is right and doesn’t spend time worrying about what people think. I’ve learned from her that I waste time overanalyzing and worrying about stuff that never happens. Her self-confidence is inspiring to me.”
Mary Jane Lungren, Zora’s mom
“I first met Zora in pre-school drama at the Learning Park. She showed individuality and leadership even as a four year old! She’s a joy to work with and is a very ‘grounded’ young lady. She works diligently with determination to achieve her goals and always with grace and respect for others.”
Martha Murphy, WCT
“Zora is who she is for a lot of reasons: One being she’s grown up in a caring community surrounded by so many wonderful role models. She embodies so many of the characteristics of her great-great-aunt Zora; she’s strong-willed and independent, but always, always eager to help others. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and doesn’t mind making fun of herself and her mistakes. She’s a good listener and she makes good choices. Zora’s great aunt was fond of saying ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.’ Zora is rarely idle.”
Kevin Lungren, Zora’s father
“I’ve known Zora since she was a toddler. My daughter, Jennifer, and she met in Co-op preschool and have been quasi-siblings and buddies since. For several years I was Zora’s Girl Scout co-leader. It’s always a joy to have Zora around — she takes a good ribbing and can dish it out as well. We’re looking forward to trips to New York and seeing Zora’s name in lights on Broadway!”
Marge Maurer-Gemkow, volunteer and co-owner, Gemko Construction