It’s rare when a teenager is valued for his contributions before those of an adult, but it’s wonderful when that value is recognized so publicly. Such is the case of Sam Schmitt, an 18-year-old Wilton teen who is headed off to his freshman year at UMASS-Amherst in September with several special recognitions for his hard work and accomplishments.

In early June, the Wilton High School graduate was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award from Ambler Farm in recognition of the more than 2,100 hours he gave to the farm. That follows on the heels of the award he received before graduation, the Raymond-Ambler Award, which is given to a graduating senior who has had an impact on the farm.

To put Sam’s 2,100 hours of volunteer time in perspective, consider that to become certified to fly for a commercial airline, pilots are required to log 1,500 hours flying time.

“It’s kind of become my second home. I spent most of my weekends there, and sometimes, like at the height of maple syrup season, when we’re pulling really long hours, putting in 12-hours a day. I spent most of my Christmas breaks working there,” Sam recalls.

It was a good fit for him, he says, describing what drew him to get involved as an apprentice and volunteer.

“I really like to build things and make things by hand. Ambler was an outlet for me to do that. I could go there, build stuff, drive the equipment, and it evolved from there to a place where I could make a real difference.”

He has obviously gotten to know the farm and its family well, crediting program manager Kevin Meehan and other leaders there with making the organization such a cornerstone of Wilton.

“They’ve taken what really was a piece of land and made it such a community resource. They inspire a lot of kids to come there, and want to give back to the community, to make it something that everyone in the town can be really proud of,” Sam says.

He adds that the friendships and relationships he’s made has been one of the best benefits of the time he spent at Ambler Farm.

“I made a lot of friends through the apprentice program. Mr. Meehan likes to say, ‘You come there to work but you stay become of the connections you’ve made.’ I’ve really made great friendships with people I’ve worked with. We’re very like-minded because we like to improve the farm and give back to the community. It’s been great to get to know them and work alongside them. I’ve also liked to train younger kids as they’ve come into the program,” Sam says.

The farm, says Sam, is a place where he hopes other younger Wilton kids will follow in his footsteps, knowing the benefits they’ll find from doing so.

“It’s taught me the values of hard work, more than anything, just because there’s always something to do there. There’s never a dull moment and you can always find stuff that should be getting done. It inspires you to work harder because in real time you can see what your work is doing for the community. It inspires a great work ethic and I see that in a lot of the kids who work there,” he says.

That approach is what won him the kudos, both official and unofficial, from Ambler officials.

“Sam loved the farm and you could see that by how often he was willing to help out beyond our apprentice program hours. When we worked on a project, Sam’s input generally improved whatever we were doing. I valued his opinions and he was confident enough to speak up and give them,” say Meehan of the teen.

Sam was so competent that he trained the adults.

“When adults came to work on farm equipment, I had them meet with Sam because he knew the equipment best. He taught adults how to drive the tractor because he was a good teacher. The only thing that pleases me more at the farm than having a good idea is when a kid has a better idea than I do. Sam had many such moments. He’ll be greatly missed,” Meehan adds.

In addition to the two awards, Sam also applied for and earned a 4-year scholarship from the Wilton-based Ambler Trust. It’s going toward his studies at Amherst, where he’ll be studying civil engineering.