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Arts, Sports & Culture

Wexford 17-Year-Old Folds Paper for Good

Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz of Wexford wants you to know that folding paper can be meaningful.

The 17-year-old’s project, Origami Salami, is receiving national recognition for its service to the community. Jaskiewicz was named a distinguished finalist of the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which honors students in grades 5-12 who are making a positive difference in their communities.

Origami Salami, otherwise known as “Folding for Good,” grows out of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based curriculum Jaskiewicz developed called “Investigation: Paper Engineering.” The purpose of the curriculum is to encourage students to choose careers in STEM subjects by teaching them to “think outside the book.”

To do this, the PA Distance Learning Charter School senior utilizes origami as a type of community service.

“We could just be folding for the fun of it, and make our own projects to teach people folding,” Jaskiewicz said, “but we’re actually going out into the community and helping people with origami and telling them how origami can be used to increase the STEM pipeline.”

Jaskiewicz said origami promotes STEM subjects because it is a “very precise and geometrical” art. Different origami designs can reveal a number of scientific possibilities, she said, which include studies of the human brain, air bags and proteins.

Origami Salami has 14 chapters worldwide, including operations in Asia, Europe and Australia.

Jaskiewicz attributes the global reach to Operation Sandy Hook, a project of Origami Salami that gathered floded paper cranes to send to Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting in 2012. Her goal was to collect 1,000 cranes, which traditionally symbolizes one wish.

Operation Sandy Hook collected more than 10,000 cranes from 13 countries.

“We just got inundated with all these cranes,” Jaskiewicz said. “It was a great project.”

The Carnegie Science Center displayed 5,000 of the cranes in October 2013.

Jaskiewicz started doing origami in 2000, when she bought an instructive book from Barnes and Noble. From there, “it’s just really been history,” she said.

The history is still in the making. Jaskiewicz is still deciding what she wants to do in the future, but no matter what it is, she pledges to pursue more origami projects.

And perhaps a life of engineering.

“I just have to decide if I want to go into electrical and computer engineering or if I want to go into geophysics and geophysical engineering.”