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Neenah teen driven to help others earns top scholarship

Rachel Miserlian chosen for Community First volunteer award

Friday, April 27, 2018
Compassionate. Dedicated. Assertive. Diligent. Relentless. Kind.
 
Those are just a few of the many words that nominators used to describe Rachel Miserlian of Neenah – recipient of the Celebrating Volunteers 2018 Youth Scholarship Award sponsored by Community First Credit Union.
 
Miserlian, a senior at Neenah High School who will attend Arizona State University next fall to study marketing with minors in public service and public policy, received the award April 26 at the Celebrating Volunteers community gala at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. The $1,500 scholarship plus $1,000 donation to a charity recognizes a high school student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in promoting volunteerism in the community.
 
Amanda Secor, Community First’s Chief of Staff, introduced Rachel as “a young lady who saw issues as opportunities, chose to do something and inspired others to join her.”
 
Rachel has created two nonprofits, started a tutoring service at a Neenah elementary school and actively encouraged classmates to join volunteer groups.
 
One of her nonprofits, Full Stop, collects feminine care products to distribute free of charge to low income or homeless women. She created it after calling several agencies that work with the homeless and learned it was a problem for them as well.
 
“I feel like Full Stop – besides helping homeless women in the Valley – is doing something important,” Rachel told The Post-Crescent/USA Today. “It doesn’t really make sense for us to have this big taboo around menstruation when it’s something that half of us are going through.”

“Rachel is a go-getter who doesn’t just sit back and accept things the way they are,” English teacher Robert Funk, one of her nominators, said. “She recognizes a potential social problem and either joins an existing effort to help solve the problem or, more importantly, she works relentlessly to create her own solutions.”
 
Since its inception in 1998, sponsors like Community First have donated nearly $700,000 to charitable organizations selected by award winners.
 
In accepting the award, Rachel thanked Community First, her nominator Mary Thompson (a Neenah Lakeview Elementary literacy coach) and especially her parents (Staci and Jason Miserlian) “not just for supporting me and my crazy schedule, but also for introducing me to service at a young age.”
 
Rachel selected Kurt Stein’s School of Music, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking down barriers to music education for all students, as the recipient of the $1,000 donated by Community First. “I’ve had the privilege of watching Kurt share the gift of music with dozens of kids each week,” said Rachel. “Kurt is unbelievably passionate and has dedicated his life to helping others.”
 
Asked where she finds her drive or passion, Rachel says, “I just have this inner feeling that if I’m not doing something to help other people, I kind feel like I’m wasting my energies a little bit. I have resources and privileges to help other people and I’m aware of problems in our communities, so I do what I can to help.”
 
Community First has sponsored the Youth Scholarship Award since the beginning of Celebrating Volunteers in 1998. Early on, the award was only a financial scholarship but Cathie Tierney, president/CEO, added $1,000 for the recipient to direct to the nonprofit of his or her choice to help instill the importance of philanthropy. "Imagine how exciting it is for a young person — they're 17 years old and they have $1,000 to donate to an organization that matters," Cathie said. "That's a great experience that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives and hopefully helps to set the stage of how important it is to give back." Community service, charitable giving and volunteerism are meaningful to Community First as a financial cooperative supporting communities and organizations where member-owners live and work.  

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