Glen Carbon resident and Edwardsville High School graduate Courtney Motl was so young when she first started volunteering, she could barely see over the serving counter at her Granite City church breakfast ministry.
But those early days of service infused in the McKendree University psychology student a drive that continues to this day — despite a full load of classes and a part-time job at the Madison County Courthouse.
Motl, 20, is one 162 students nationwide to be named a 2012 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a higher education association that develops and recognizes campus-based civic engagement.
The award recognizes students who are working to find solutions for the challenges facing their communities and specifically recognizes her work for the Family Living Center in East St. Louis. As part of her duties as a coordinator for McKendree's Center for Public Service, Motl facilitates and participates in weekly 1-1/2 hour playtime sessions for the children living in the emergency housing center so their parents can attend life skills and job training classes.
"I just finished my third year doing that," said the college junior. "I facilitate it and provide transportation for the volunteers and make sure there are crafts or things for the kids to do. And I play with them. That's one of my favorite things to do — to have that one-on-one interaction."
Motl pursues several altruistic activities. The former Girl Scout Gold Award winner is a McKendree Student Ambassador, providing campus tours for prospective students; a New Student Orientation Leader and Peer Mentor; a member of the college's Campus Ministries, an interfaith religious service group; and a member of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity and Alpha Delta Gamma women's fraternity.
In addition to her job as an office assistant at the courthouse, she also has worked at Tropical Snow, a snow cone stand in Edwardsville, every summer since her sophomore year in high school. When she's not working or volunteering, she pursues her love of the violin, which afforded her the opportunity to travel to France and Italy as a participant in the Suzuki music program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. And in between of all of that, the Presidential Scholar manages to maintain a 3.7 GPA.
"She is one of our community service scholars and has been one of the most passionate and dedicated volunteers on our campus," said McKendree's Center for Public Service Director Lyn Huxford. "I think the world of Courtney. She is a delightful young woman who is pleasant and easy to work with. I can't say too much about how happy I am that she was awarded the Newman Civic Fellow because she certainly deserves it for all of her hours of service."
Motl said those hours of service are part of a mission greater than receiving scholarships or being recognized.
"My mom had cervical cancer when I was in her womb and we both ended up living," Motl said. "Ever since my mom told me the story of how it was to bring me in this world, I felt like there is a purpose for me. There was a chance that I could not have been on this earth. And I need to use every moment that I have to the fullest or I'm wasting the gift I've been given."
Lisa Motl raised Courtney and older sister Kaitlyne as a single parent. She said she got her daughters involved in volunteerism because she wanted them to learn to be grateful and to look beyond materialism. Kaitlyne Motl is a McKendree graduate who also volunteered at the Center for Public Service and is currently studying for her doctorate in sociology from the University of Kentucky Lexington.
But Lisa Motl refuses to take credit for her daughters' accomplishments.
"Everyone says you should be proud of what you've done, what they do and what they continue to do," Lisa Motl said. "I instilled my beliefs in my daughters but they're the ones who made the right choices. I am their biggest cheerleader and their biggest fan. They believe they can save the world one individual at a time — and I believe they can too."
Contact reporter Ramona C. Sanders at 618-344-0264, ext. 136
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