Florida high school students are required to give 40 hours of volunteer service to graduate. Erin McManus, 19, of Weston, Fla. took that mandatory task and made it into four years of community service. The University of Florida’s first-year Gainesville student gave 430 hours to community service before she graduated from Cypress Bay High School.
“I know this is a well-worn saying, ‘In giving, you receive the most,’ but I truly believe in it,” she wrote.
That’s one of the reasons our law firm awarded Miss McManus the $2500 Ben Crump Community Leadership Scholarship.
Over four years, she and her clubmates raised an astounding $180,000 for UNICEF and its worldwide work for children. She raised money for her school’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. And she helped raise awareness by helping to establish the Allergy Awareness Club after a classmate tragically died from an allergic reaction.
One hundred of her volunteer hours were happily spent at the Young At Art Museum in Plantation, Fl., helping out with pottery, painting, photography, and art media classes for adults and children.
“I found that some of the art students were understood best when the new art forms were first presented visually on a computer,’’ she wrote in her award-winning essay. She ended up augmenting hands-on disciplines with technology tools.
Miss McManus says her parents, Vivien and John McManus, are her inspiration.
“They always encouraged me to make my mark,’’ she said.
Five children keep her mother busy; Miss McManus is the second-oldest. Her father is an attorney who taught her hard work by example.
“I’ve loved volunteering since middle school,’’ Miss McManus said.
Miss McManus doesn’t seem to do anything halfway. She joined her middle school band to “meet people,” she said. Her five-page resume lists two pages, single-spaced, of music performances and distinctions as a bass clarinetist.
During all four years of high school, she competed in local, regional, and national competitions with the Cypress Bay Sound of Thunder Marching Band as part of its Wind Ensemble. She went on to become the band’s head historian. She found the dedication and generosity of the alumni band members heartening.
Miss McManus has some advice for Florida high school students about the mandatory 40 hours of service:
“So many people look at this as a to-do list,’’ she said. “But really, I’d like the young people to know that every contribution that they make to the community will make a difference, no matter how small they think it is.”