Rather, they say, it was a matter of doing what would make a positive difference for others, a lesson learned both at home and at school, and lived out in their individual lives.

The three high school seniors were among 79 recipients of the Christian Service Award, given annually by the Department of Catholic Schools to honor those who show exemplary service to church and community during their high school years. Those who received awards March 15 included Stephanie Ramirez, Bishop Garcia Diego (Santa Barbara); Jennifer Wilson, La Reina (Thousand Oaks); Jordain Tamai, Santa Clara (Oxnard); Gilcrest and Mack, St. Bonaventure (Ventura); Dascanio and Jose Romaldo Orozco, St. Joseph (Santa Maria); and Kathleen Borchard, Villanova Preparatory (Ojai).

Dascanio, who will graduate this spring from St. Joseph, is a four-year member of the campus Christian Service Club, for which she serves as president this school year. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club, Youth Ministry Team and California Scholarship Federation, serving as a tutor.

Although she is involved in numerous service projects, she says the most rewarding activity is working with the homeless children at the Good Samaritan Shelter. 

“These children do not have much of anything, and it’s good to bring some joy into their lives,” Dascanio explains. “When we go bowling they laugh and have a good time, something they really need.” 

Her group also assists with seasonal parties for the children, including Halloween, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day, complete with decorations, games and hats. The children keep something from each celebration as a remembrance of the occasion and the fun they had.

“I love to see the smiles on their faces,” Dascanio says, “that’s why I do this service --- because I really enjoy it and I want to do it. There is no pressure.”

Kristin Mack, a senior at St. Bonaventure High School, comes from a family that is deeply involved in Christian service both locally and globally. She has often accompanied her parents to Mexico to help build homes, and is president of the campus Invisible Children organization, working to spread awareness of the needs of Ugandan children. Her older sister now lives in Uganda and works full time with Invisible Children.

“It is both humbling and fulfilling to serve the needs of others,” Mack says thoughtfully. “From my experiences I have become more patient, and certainly more appreciative of what we have.” An active parishioner at Our Lady of the Assumption in Ventura, Mack is involved with both campus and parish Christian service projects, some with her peers and some with her family.  

Service is a major emphasis at St. Bonaventure, according to principal Marc Groff. He says it is not difficult to gather 30 to 50 students, or more, for a project.

“It is important to us to make a connection as to why we do Christian service — whether it be for the less fortunate, or helping the community and we find a genuine and generous willingness of the students to serve,” Groff explains.

Morgan Gilcrest, also graduating from St. Bonaventure this spring, has been profoundly affected by his years on campus and immersion in Christian service. A peer leader for both youth and junior high ministry and confirmation at Our Lady of the Assumption, he also is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Mack and the Invisible Children group.

“I believe God is calling me to the priesthood,” Gilcrest says, adding that he has been accepted to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to study theology next fall. 

Headed for the University of Notre Dame this fall, Dascanio is sure of the direction her life will take as she leaves high school. She intends to spend her sophomore year abroad in a service-oriented program.

“I am interested in global projects — the environment, possibly engineering, and I can make my work a service,” Dascanio explains. “My intent is to serve others through Christ, and it is most important for me to image Christ through my work and service.”

Headed to Ventura College in the fall, Mack plans to go into social work. Her work with less fortunate children has opened her eyes to the difficulties and problems these children face and she wants to make a difference.

“It really frustrates me to see what children have to go through and I want to change things and make them better,” she says.

Gilcrest says that while receiving the Christian Service award was a big honor, he sees the bigger picture and that his service means so much more.

“God put us here for a reason,” he says. “Actively serving brings out the fullness of what life’s all about — that we are all called to serve others in some way.”

{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0422-29/service/{/gallery}