CHAPMAVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When your life mission is to make the world a better place, you have to start at a young age.
At just 16 years old, one young man is already making major progress in his community, but he isn't stopping there.
“I just like helping people,” Matthew Dingess, a student at Chapmanville Regional High School, said.” I like making a difference in the community in any way I can possibly do that.”
Dingess started by founding the STAR program: Students Taking Action Responsibly.
He worked with West Virginia State Police to bring in different speakers each week -- covering everything from drug and alcohol abuse to sexting and cyber bullying.
After seeing the program’s success in his own school, Dingess now plans to take the program county and even state-wide.
“He's done an exceptional job putting it on,” WVSP Lieutenant Brian Brown said. “That's something most high school students wouldn't have even considered.”
“I just want our community to be known for something other than drugs and alcohol,” Dingess said. “I hope I save some lives honestly.”
Weeks after starting the STAR program, he did just that.
In between educating his classmates and getting his own education, Dingess also serves as a volunteer firefighter.
Just last month, he had to cut one of his classmates out of a car in a devastating crash.
“Matt Dingess is a special man,” Kathy Moore, CRHS principal, said. “Someday we will see him in Secret Service protecting the United States President. There's no doubt in my mind. He's a tenth grader, he has taken the lead, he's one of those rare kids that come along. He's got a bright future wherever he lands.”
And he's already thinking beyond the diploma. Hoping to fall in the footsteps of his mentors, he says it would be an honor to become a state trooper. But right now -- they're the ones honoring him.
“On behalf of the community, the high school and WSAZ Channel 3 news, we'd like to present Matt with the hometown hero award for June 2013,” Lieutenant Brown said while presenting Dingess with the Hometown Hero certificate.