Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alum of the Month - Meet Angelica Niemann!

Hey HOBY!  Are you ready for April's "Alum of the Month"?  Of course you are because we are honoring the outstanding Angelica Niemann!  Angelica is a 2013 HOBY ILCS Alum from Quincy Notre Dame High School.  After graduating in May, Angelica will go on to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  Cool fact: Angelica has already made it onto the Illinettes Dance Team!

We'll now turn it over to Angelica! 
Just a few short years ago, I was nominated to attend the Hugh O' Brian Youth Leadership Conference. What I gained from this experience is something I will take with me for the rest of my life; courage. Many people often confuse courage with ability, however, these concepts are completely different. We all have the ability and potential to achieve greatness, but the few that actually take a chance have courage.
 I have always had a sincere passion for helping others and desire to make a positive difference. After HOBY, I remembered a goal I wrote down throughout the weekend: founding a Kindness Club at my high school. I approached my principal and got to work on my exciting project during the summer of 2013. I pondered at the question, "What if we all did one random act of kindness every day?" The Mayo Clinic has made a discovery that one simple act of kindness spreads, like a virus, affecting up to 25 people in one day! Think about how much power we have. We all have a choice in life- whether we want to be a positive or negative influence. I chose to be proactive by creating the Quincy Notre Dame Kindness Club at my high school. We currently are the largest club at my school. The QND Kindness Club devotes its school year to doing kind deeds each month. We carol at nursing homes, raise money for children's hospitals, collect food for the poor and visit veterans. I will never forget the moment I met a veteran named Marvin. He was known as the "difficult patient." Marvin was paralyzed from the neck down and he hated visitors. When I came to visit his room, we sat and talked for hours! When I left, I heard him whisper under his breath "thank you." I quickly corrected him, for it was I who was thankful. He fought for our country, the ultimate sacrifice.
The QND Kindness Club was also inspired by Zach Sobiech, a 17 year-old boy who died from bone cancer. Since then, we have partnered up with our local Early Childhood Development Center where we mentor special needs children twice a month. The interactions with high school students has prompted significant improvements with the children's social and verbal skills. One child we work with actually said his first word during our visit! Recently, we celebrated "Kindness Club Week." This year's theme was "Thanking Our Heroes." Throughout the week, we had a soldier care package drive, baked cupcakes and wrote letters to firefighters, policemen, and EMT's as well as performed many other acts of kindness. We also will be published in the September/October edition of Women's Day magazine to highlight our club and inspire other readers around the world.
So was it luck you may ask or destiny that I attended HOBY? Because of that one incredible experience, I had an idea that eventually evolved into my passion. Kindness is the gift that keeps on giving. I believe it is important to remember that  every journey starts with the decision to begin. I hope that I can continue to encourage others to take chances like I did. We all have the potential to make such a positive difference.  
My future plans include continuing the QND Kindness Club and founding a collegiate level organization at my college, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Someday, I hope the Kindness Club will be imbedded into every high school and university in the United States. Every student has the potential to make a positive impact with their actions. "Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”

-Angelica Niemann