Volunteers leave major mark - Catholic Courier

Volunteers leave major mark

She’s an 18-year-old National Honor Society student, multisport athlete and musician. She’ll enter college this fall on a service scholarship based on her extensive volunteerism at school, in the community and at St. James the Apostle Parish in Trumansburg.

Meet Kaitlyn. Or is it Katelyn?

Actually, both.

Kaitlyn Miller and Katelyn Glanton have similarities that go well beyond their first names. The young women, who graduated from Trumansburg High School June 24, are good friends and take part jointly in many activities. For instance, they were interviewed for this article on a recent Tuesday after having spent the better part of that day chaperoning a sixth-grade field trip.

Kaitlyn has been active in St. James’ youth ministry since sixth grade, shortly after her family moved to Tompkins County from Iowa. She started out attending youth-group meetings with her older siblings, brother Scott and sister Christy, while her mother Laurie served as youth minister — a role that mom still holds.

“Church is just really important to our family,” Kaitlyn said.

Katelyn also is a longtime youth-group member, joining Kaitlyn in such events as volunteering at the local food pantry; visiting the elderly at a local nursing home; and assisting at the parish Christmas bazaar. The duo also has helped out with first Communion preparation and as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. Kaitlyn has additionally taught first-grade religious education; co-chaired a weekly ecumenical Bible study group at the high school; and taken part in the Big Friend, Little Friend mentoring program.

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see how Kaitlyn and Katelyn became Hands of Christ awards recipients last fall. The honor is given annually by the Diocese of Rochester to high-school seniors who have performed outstanding service.

Yet the above is only a partial list of the girls’ activities. In addition, Kaitlyn has played the alto sax and Katelyn the trombone in the school jazz band. Katelyn also has sung with the jazz chorus. Both are three-sport athletes: Kaitlyn in soccer, basketball and outdoor track, and Katelyn in soccer, indoor track and outdoor track. Also at school, both have volunteered with a track-and-field program for younger students.

Laurie Miller observed that despite these busy regimens, Kaitlyn and Katelyn have maintained high grade-point averages at school.

“They just are truly, truly incredible young women. It’s been a pleasure to be one of their moms, and a double pleasure to have both of them in youth group,” she said.

The youth minister said their exemplary character stood out during a tragedy in eighth grade. That’s when the girls’ close friend and soccer teammate, Amanda Haight, took ill during a game and died suddenly. Laurie Miller commented that Kaitlyn, Katelyn and another close friend, Julia Woodward, all spoke at Amanda’s funeral, saying that “they showed maturity beyond their years.”

Recalling that rocky period, Kaitlyn said the soccer team had thought about cancelling the rest of its season. However, she said, “We didn’t want to end it because Amanda wouldn’t have wanted us to.”

The squad not only finished the season, but Kaitlyn and Katelyn initiated an effort in which balloons were released in memory of Amanda at the year-ending game.

“Pretty much the whole community came out,” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn and Katelyn have seen to it that the memorial games have continued each October, around the anniversary of Amanda’s death. They noted that their team has won every one of those contests, even when Trumansburg has not been the favored club.

This fall, Kaitlyn will attend Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., as a speech-pathology major. Katelyn is headed for St. John Fisher College in Rochester where she plans to major in either special or elementary education, allowing her to continue her passion for working with youths.

“I’ve always been around younger kids. I had tons of younger cousins,” Katelyn said.

Kaitlyn and Katelyn also expect to continue their volunteer duty in college.

“Volunteering is a part of my life,” Katelyn remarked.

Meanwhile, Kaitlyn said that volunteerism has taught her about “setting priorities and following through with the priorities.”

“I definitely think it’s helped from a moral standpoint,” Kaitlyn said, noting that whereas “a lot of kids are just trying to find themselves,” her involvement in church and community has kept her on a well-defined path.

As they move into adulthood, the accomplishments of Kaitlyn and Katelyn will have an enduring legacy in Trumansburg, according to one very proud mother and youth minister.

“Basically, they’ve done anything and everything that I’ve asked them to do, willingly with a sense of gentleness, kindness and maturity. They are truly just a blessing to all of us, to our church and community,” Laurie Miller said.

“And I’m getting a little choked up,” she added as her voice broke, “because we’re going to miss them.”

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