School: Tempe Preparatory Academy
There are busy high school students, and then there are students like Theresa O’Connor. A junior at Tempe Preparatory Academy, O’Connor, 17, has a resume of academic achievements, club participation, and community involvement that would rival the highest achievers in Arizona.
But what sets O’Connor apart isn’t the volume of her achievements, it’s the multiplier: By encouraging so many classmates in different grades to join her causes, O’Connor isn’t just maximizing the good she can do now, she’s creating a legacy for far beyond graduation.
“I had a lot of opportunities that were given to me all at once,” O’Connor said. “It was a lot at first, going into my junior year. Definitely overwhelming. But I had organizational skills and that really played a big part.”
When she wasn’t working on the newspaper, or the yearbook, or speech and debate, O’Connor was volunteering at a no-kill shelter, promoting gender equality, or tutoring. But O’Connor found that she could create the most value for the community when she could plan events or organize drives that involved the attention from not just a few friends, but entire grades of her student body.
One such project, a drive to collect bottle caps for MeHug Destapitas, would help children with cancer. Specifically, this program helps cancer patients by paying for medical insurance, and other expenses that could relieve the parents, of these patients, of financial stress. O’Connor rallied the energy of students and propelled the drive, collecting more than 26,000 bottle caps.
“Coming up with a plan, making sure someone is involved with promoting it, it was really cool to see all the grade levels come together,” O’Connor said. “It’s hard to say I have a favorite project, because there are a lot that have been really impactful. But seeing the smiles on people’s faces when we dropped off the bottle caps made it so meaningful. It was very inspiring.”Back to Recipients