The 2016 McKinley Alumni Scholarship was awarded to Burroughs High School senior and prior McKinley student Maddie Weerts at a special assembly for fourth- and fifth-grade students at McKinley Elementary School on Thursday, May 12.
“I was so honored to receive this scholarship,” commented Weerts. “I vividly remember watching the first scholarship recipient give her speech nine years ago and hoping that might be me someday. The teachers and staff at McKinley were always so supportive and helped give me a great foundation for my future at Jordan and Burroughs.”
“It was really meaningful to have my fourth grade teacher, Lesli Melchor, come to the assembly from Disney Elementary, where she is working now, and Juan Avila, the former Office Manager at McKinley who now works at Jordan, came to support me. My fifth, second and first grade teachers are still at McKinley, Roseann Webb, Carol Derry and Diana Wong.”
After a prepared speech, Weerts answered student questions.
One student asked about how to be successful in middle and high school.
“I told them that time management is one of the most important skills I can think of,” she said. “It is also important to get involved in activities that interest you like sports, choir, drama or ASB so that the larger campuses seem smaller thanks to the new friendships you’ll make.”
“It also helps to learn to manage your time when you have to balance homework, activities and your social life,” Weerts added, noting she’s been a member of the JBHS VMA for four years and dances with Pacific Ballet Theatre’s Corps de Ballet.
Weerts also discussed ways she has volunteered her time helping others.
“I volunteer with Build A Miracle Organization, which is a group that works in Tijuana, Mexico, to build, paint and furnish houses for needy families in a slum called El Florido. I’ve worked in Mexico eight times so far, and it’s been a great opportunity (beyond helping to paint and mix concrete) for me to practice my Spanish and get to know some of the amazing people who live so close to us in Southern California, yet in a completely different world.”
“This past summer, I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, to live with a host family, study Spanish for four to five hours a day, and volunteer in a malnutrition hospital with babies, for approximately 30 hours over those two weeks,” Weerts added.
“I had no idea going into the volunteer work that it was going to impact me so much; I thought I would be changing a lot of diapers and feeding baby formula (which I did), but I didn’t know that I would connect so deeply with those babies who didn’t have parents around or anyone to hold them and play with them.”
Weerts also answered a question from fifth grader Charlie Harris about her opinion of social media.
“A huge part of my childhood and my development has been my lack of social media. I used to fight my parents over their decision to keep our household social-media free.”
“I would think of parent-friendly reasons why I needed to have an Instagram; I would plan presentations with notecards in hand on why being able to see my friends’ lives documented would positively affect me in the long run.”
“But now I thank my mom and dad wholeheartedly for making me the ‘weird kid’ who didn’t tweet or snapchat, because they gave me life skills and a sense of appreciation for being disconnected from technology but connected to the world around me that my friends and peers might never have.”
“I know that a lot of the fourth- and fifth-graders are probably at the age where they are trying to get their parents to say yes, and most probably will,” Weerts also said. “I get it. But it was nice to have the chance to let the students know that having real friends is more important that collecting a bunch of followers and likes, and being present is more important than capturing ‘the perfect selfie.'”
“If there’s one thing I could tell my elementary-school self, it would be to enjoy everything in middle school and high school,” Weerts told the youngsters. “That time isn’t just for getting good grades so you can be accepted into college like all the adults tell you (although that is important), it’s also for making memories with your friends and discovering the things you love to do.”
“You’ll find that you’re going to be given many opportunities in the next few years to try new things: to be on a sports team, to take dance classes, to join band or choir, to take art or media classes or to take a cooking course. Please do these things! You don’t need to pick just one, because your time at Jordan and Burroughs is meant for trying out everything you think you might enjoy”
Weerts plans to attend University of California, San Diego, in the fall, majoring in Psychology and Spanish.
The McKinley Alumni Scholarship program was started in 2008 by a school parent, Suzanne Weerts, who is also 2016 recipient Weerts’ mother, and teacher, Cherie Wescott. Each May, after reviewing applications from students who graduated from McKinley Elementary, a graduating Burroughs High School senior is selected by a McKinley PTA committee as the scholarship recipient.