Montini Catholic Senior Megan Laughlin (Naperville) is being honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a President's Volunteer Service Award. The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. Montini Catholic Principal Kevin Beirne nominated Megan for national honors in recognition of her volunteer service. She received a certificate of recognition as well as a letter from President Donald Trump commending her on this honor.
A member of the Bronco Golf team for three years, Megan was not one to sit on the sidelines athletically, academically or when it came to service. She joined the school spirit team, Montini Maniacs and was also a member of the Student Government, Film Club, Book Club and Lasallian Youth Group. She served as a Student Ambassador, a Peer Minister and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was honored as an Illinois State Scholar earlier this school year and was just recently named as one of Montini Catholic's Academic All Stars for maintaining a 3.95+ GPA during her seventh semester.
"I’ve helped out with many Montini events and have gone on several service trips with my Lasallian Youth Group including helping at DuPage PADS and at the Fun Fair (sponsored by the Developmental Learning Program in Midlothian, IL)," says Megan. She has also joined fellow pro-life advocates at the annual March for Life event in Washington, D.C. now for three years in a row and was chosen to be a leader for Kairos, Montini's spiritual retreat for seniors. "Much of my service has taken place outside of Montini," she added. "I’ve led five retreats and gone on two mission trips with my church (Naperville's St. Raphael Parish)." (Unfortunately for Megan, this year’s trip was canceled due to complications of the Coronavirus.) "I also volunteer at St. Patrick’s Residence, which is a local nursing home and I have led Bingo for seniors through the Naperville Park District. My most recent service endeavor has been delivering meals on wheels for senior citizens during the Coronavirus pandemic."
Her favorite project, however, one that has remained near and dear to her heart, was her first mission trip with her church to Troy, Missouri to help families in need. "We stayed in a local high school with 400 teens from around the United States and were broken up into smaller teams and assigned a local resident to help." Megan and her team painted the interior of a house belonging to a single mom and her autistic son. "We got to know the mom, Heather, really well and on multiple occasions, months after, she texted us saying how grateful she was. Seeing how she was still thinking about our work months later, really opened my eyes to the importance of our actions and leaving a good mark." Megan found the experience to be life-changing - building a faith and service based relationship with the residents and the crew. "I didn’t know what to expect, but the atmosphere of hundreds of kids my age willing to give up a week of their summer to help others was so inspiring. It was really eye opening to see a community rally together to make positive change."
Inspired by her older brother, Ryan (a 2015 graduate of Montini who also received the President's Volunteer Service Award as a senior), Megan first got involved in service within the St. Raphael community. "Ryan loved leading retreats and the mission trip he went on, so I wanted to give it a try," she remembers. "He is now involved in a service organization at Saint Louis University. Service was something that we bonded over and he helped me when I was initially nervous about getting involved!"
Once she took that first step, however, Megan realized that she was quite passionate about helping others. "Service really gives me a sense of purpose. The people I am serving inspire me to keep going back because of their gratitude, and the people who serve alongside me inspire me to step out of my comfort zone to do what’s right."
Megan has learned from her positive experiences in service that she has the desire to become a nurse, a degree she plans on pursuing at Purdue University this fall. "This career will allow me to constantly help others. I hope to continue service in college and for the rest of my life!"
When asked what advice she would give to current and future high school students - or anyone - who may be reluctant to get involved, Megan responded. "At first service may seem intimidating but other volunteers are more than willing to help and love when you are there to inspire them. Even if you are going into a service project knowing nobody, you will meet other kids and become friends with them. Just choose a project you are passionate about, and you won’t regret it!"
In its 25th year, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer services. "Across the United States, young volunteers are doing remarkable things to contribute to the well-being of the people and communities around them," said Prudential Chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey. "Prudential is honored to celebrate the contributions of Megan, we hope her story inspires others to volunteer too!"