Alyssa Buchheit had a summer-long service project lined up before her senior year, but a scheduling conflict led to an unravelling of her plans. Through a family connection, she learned about another volunteer opportunity with Every Child’s Hope (ECH — formerly Evangelical Children’s Home), and as it turned out, that became a lesson in understanding privilege and becoming justice-minded.
At ECH, Alyssa got to meet children in the residential program — most of whom have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect. The senior at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon said she quickly became aware of her privilege coming from a white, middle-class family. “Geographically the kids live just 25 minutes from me, yet in reality they live a whole world away,” she said. “I realized how I’m protected in a bubble of my own environment,” and the time spent in service was good to “expand and get to know others and their views.”
Alyssa is one of 27 area teens who were to have been honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Model of Justice Award Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The awards ceremony is a highlight of the 44th annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice, which commemorates the birth and legacy of King.
Alyssa, a member of Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles, spent her summer with residents at ECH, which allowed staff to dedicate extra time to children with more pressing needs. She also helped organize a year-round store for the children, called HopE CHest, where children can pick an item to give as a gift to their family or friends or themselves. She would like to establish a collection drive at her high school to donate more items to the store.
Buchheit also has volunteered with the Maggie Welby Foundation, which provides scholarships and grants for children in need; Mary Queen of Angels, which helps pregnant and parenting mothers in need; and with the food pantry and adopt-a-family program at Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service.
Reflecting on King’s legacy, Alyssa said that he was a great example of servant leadership, and is inspired by how he could gather a large group of people together to focus on a single goal. She said her parents and others have taught her the importance of raising up others — anything from talking to someone who is lonely, to volunteering to help others in need.
Her summer at ECH, she said, has motivated her to donate more time and effort, “just making sure to stand up for people who aren’t able to like I could.”
Above all, the Gospel motivates her to see the face of Jesus in others, as she’s been taught from a young age. “Service is a great way to do that,” she said. “Even though someone might be different from you or dealing with hard circumstances, service can give you a way to show love to them.”
2020 Model of Justice awardees
>> Parish awardees
Johannah Wilding, All Saints St. Peters
Matthew Lewis, Assumption O’Fallon
Maggie Lonero, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Mollie Fogarty, Immaculate Conception, Dardenne Prairie
Zachary Patterson, Most Holy Trinity, St. Louis
Zoe Coffman, St. Alhponsus Liguori “Rock”
Cura Hannon, St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist
>> Catholic school awardees
Tyree Wesley, Bishop DuBourg High School
Akash Nandakumar, Chaminade College Preparatory
Damian Clucas, Christian Brothers College High School
Hannah Calandro, Cor Jesu Academy
Abigail Wussier, Duchesne High School
Celestine Houmenou, Incarnate Word Academy
JaMaya Bonner, Nerinx Hall
Kiarra Lloyd, Notre Dame High School
Chelsea Sims, Rosati-Kain High School
Alyssa Buchheit, St. Dominic High School
Grace McKinnis, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School
Max Luna, St. John Vianney High School
Kathleen Broun, St. Joseph’s Academy
Brennan Spellman, Saint Louis Priory School
Peter Curdt, St. Louis University High School
Kam Lian, St. Mary’s High School
Chloe Hayes, Ursuline Academy
Erin Mueller, Valle Catholic High School
Valeria Rivera, Villa Duchesne
Grace Kalil, Visitation Academy
44th annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
WHAT: The Mass commemorates the birth and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19
WHERE: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was to be the main celebrant; Father Art
Cavitt of the St. Charles Lwanga Center was to be the homilist. A
reception and awards ceremony for the 2019 Model of Justice honorees
will take place after Mass in Boland Hall. For more information, call
the St. Charles Lwanga Center at (314) 367-7929.