For Michelle McCalmont, volunteering is second nature. In third grade, she already was setting up papers and crayons for her mother’s first grade CCD class at Incarnation Church and, by sixth grade, she was helping to teach.
Now a Centerville High School senior, she has participated in at least 700 hours of volunteer activities during her high school career – more than twice that of any other National Honor Society inductee.
To honor her initiative and commitment, Washington Township Trustees presented her with the Community Service Award at their meeting on April 18. Now in its fourteenth year, the award was established to draw attention to the importance of public service and to recognize high school students who exemplify it.
“We think that Michelle is a role model and one of the best examples of what is going right with young people in our community and country,” said Stella McCrory, a CHS guidance counselor who helps coordinate the award. “She has been an active CCD teacher, teacher’s assistant and vacation Bible school leader. Outside of church, she has worked selflessly with children of special needs, completing many hours of babysitting and participating in the Circle of Friends at the high school.”
“When I’m involved in service activities, I don’t think of it as service at all. It’s a hobby to me,” says Michelle. While she is enthusiastic about her volunteer activities, her original passion is dance. Despite a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a hereditary connective tissue disorder that leads to joint dislocation and broken bones, Michelle powered through years of dance lessons and ongoing injuries – even becoming a company member for five years with the pre-professional South Dayton Dance Theater company. But after surgery on both legs led to an entire summer in a wheelchair, she decided to trade in her dance shoes.
“I channeled my passion into volunteering. Service became my hobby and what I love. Because I have such a medical problem, I gear my volunteer activities toward people with other medical problems,” she says. That has included working with Octagon Club to paint the faces of children at Dayton Children’s Hospital and helping with the Build a Bear event for cancer patients. She also has planned activities and parties for special needs kids as a member of Circle of Friends, made trauma dolls for children, and raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
But nothing brings her more joy than Zac, a 6-year old who she met at church through their respective mothers. Michelle has helped Zac’s mother for two years, providing child care on a regular basis and refusing payment. She’s also learning sign language with Zac so that they can communicate. “He’s completely nonverbal and normally shy, but when we met each other, we fell in love,” she says. “We had an instant connection. I can’t even put into words to describe our relationship. It’s just awesome.”
Many people along the way have influenced Michelle’s dedication to volunteering. “My mother is the one who got me involved, and my parents are always supportive of what I’m doing. But it’s also people in the community. Every single person has impacted me. My entire church community has shaped my passion for service,” she says.Michelle adds that teens help themselves as well as others when they volunteer: "I would say that you shape your own experience in high school. Young people who want a great experience should get involved. Take something you love and share it. No service activity is too small. You never know what small action may make a great impact on others.”
Michelle has been a member of both Octagon Club and Key Club service organizations at CHS, participated in Diversity Council, and tutored and mentored students through Chemistry Buddy, Lunch Buddy and Elk Connector programs. An avid reader, she serves on the public library’s Teen Advisory Board.
In addition to volunteering, she swims regularly, is an officer in French Club, and participated on a Destination Imagination team that placed third in the state. After graduating with an honors diploma, she plans to study nursing and French at Ohio Northern University. She is the daughter of John and Ingrid McCalmont, 9128 Heather Lane.
Other award nominees were Rachana Raghupathy, daughter of Santhosh Raghupathy and Chethana Raghupathy,1181 Peachcreek Rd.; Casey Swoboda, son of Steven and Stephanie Swoboda, 7895 John Elwood Dr.; and Kaarthika Thakker, daughter of Dinesh and Shashikala Thakker of 391 E. Social Row Rd.
Nominations and selection are made by these CHS service club advisors, with coordination by guidance counselor Stella McCrory: Elizabeth Cameron, Interact Club (Rotary); Beth Buck and Ellie Malchow, Octagon Club (Optimists); Andrew Yuker and Jacqueline Williams, National Honor Society; and Emily Watkins, Key Club (Kiwanis).
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