Emma Weston of Ursuline Academy is following in the footsteps of her school’s recipients of the Archbishop John L. May Award for service, now in its 28th year.
That means she’s also following in the footsteps of her mother, Nicole Morton Weston, Ursuline’s 1998 recipient of the award. The award recognizes outstanding leadership, community service and volunteer achievement. It is given by the Office of Catholic Education and Formation to a senior from each of the 26 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.
Emma has never sought accolades. She sees service as a way of life, an opportunity to be Christ to others. Her grandmother was among those who instilled the need for a strong relationship with God, and she prays to Him every night for guidance in her outreach.
“I feel like you shouldn’t have to get an award for doing service because that’s what everyone should do, the human thing to do,” she said. “It just makes me feel good knowing that I’m helping others.”
Her family holds service close to their heart, putting a priority on giving to others. An example was filling their garage with goods and clothing for refugees helped by Welcome Neighbor STL.
Emma has volunteered since she was 10 years old at the meals program for people in need at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in St. Louis. She has volunteered with Youth in Action STL, with the mental health organization Robbie’s Hope, with the teen summer program at Mercy South Hospital and with the Nurses for Newborns program. She’s been part of volunteer efforts with Whole Kids Outreach in Ellington, Missouri, and with Hand In Hand Ministries in Auxier, Kentucky. At Ursuline, she volunteered with several efforts, including constructing staging for the school’s plays and musicals. At her parish, St. Matthias in south St. Louis County, she helps with fish fries and holiday events.
At Youth in Action, Emma made meal kits for families, was instrumental in creating a lemonade stand that raised $1,000 to grant a wish for a Make a Wish child, worked at fund and food drives and made a quilt for a teen battling cancer.
In a statement about her service experience, she wrote that it’s not about feeling sorry for others, but rather it is about truly seeing them, respecting their dignity and acknowledging how she can use her gifts and knowledge to help create change.
Her mom, Nicole Weston, was honored for her volunteer work as a high school student, including in the physical therapy department of the spinal cord injury unit at Jefferson Barracks Hospital. She is glad that recipients are honored, noting that they represent so many good things that teens are doing in the community. A campus minister at Ursuline, Nicole said “it brings me so much joy to be able to provide service opportunities and share those opportunities with our students.”
That spirit — Ursuline’s motto of serviam, “I will serve,” is carried through generations, in this case handed down from Emma’s grandmother, Sue Hartman Morton, a 1973 Ursuline grad. “We talk about it becoming inherently a part of who you are,” Nicole said.
Academics are essential at Ursuline, but the school focuses on the development of the whole person with faith at the core of the mission. Students are connected with organizations that support their God-given gifts and talents, a place where they can shine in serving others.
The awards bring awareness of the various organizations where students volunteer, many of them unknown to most people in the community, such as Robbie’s Hope where Emma volunteers.
Another recipient of the Archbishop John L. May Award, Maria Elbert of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, calls her service work rewarding and inspiring. Service work for her means giving back to the community, making the world a kinder and better place by helping and supporting others.
Maria has spent much of her time tutoring and helping with fundraisers at St. Clair School in the St. Clair R-III School District. She has helped students with reading, math and spelling. “I learned that many of these students do not receive any help at home and struggle having their basic needs met. I felt like I made a difference during my time there by showing students that I care about them and helped them learn and feel loved,” Elbert wrote in a nomination form.
Maria, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Union, also has volunteered at Peter and Paul Community Services, Meals on Wheels and Harvest Table.
The high school senior added that “my service experience has shown me how God has blessed me, and it is my responsibility to use my time, talent and treasure to help others less fortunate.”
>> Archbishop John L. May Award recipients
Barat Academy — Anna Smith
Bishop DuBourg High School — Kira Jean-Gilles
Cardinal Ritter College Prep — Cameron Cole-Birdsong
Chaminade College Preparatory School — Stephen Wheadon
Christian Brothers College High School — Jack Hobart
Cor Jesu Academy — Margaret Mathis
DeSmet Jesuit High School — Nicholas Winter
Duchesne High School — Sara Kerkemeyer
Incarnate Word Academy — Brianna A. Spears
Nerinx Hall High School — Megan Boyll
Notre Dame High School — Anna Rose Diel
Rosati-Kain High School — Clare Wangard
St. Dominic High School — Joseph Hogan
St. Francis Borgia Regional High School — Maria Elbert
St. John Vianney High School — Benjamin Schrader
St. Joseph’s Academy — Lauren Bowers
St. Louis Priory School — David Mohrmann
St. Louis University High School — Bobby Rizzo
St. Mary’s High School — Caleb Dill
St. Pius X High School — Grace Halfmann
St. Vincent High School — Kirsten Ella Robinson
Trinity Catholic High School — Jannia Taylor
Ursuline Academy — Emma Weston
Valle Catholic High School — Riley Jo Siebert
Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School — Grace Billhartz
Visitation Academy — Caroline Lily Gaughan