Thernfirst time Michelle Stauber signed up to assist at a camp for developmentallyrndisabled youth and adults a couple of summers ago, she did so with an open, butrnadmittedly apprehensive, mindset.

“Irndidn’t know what to expect,” says the senior at Notre Dame Academy in West LosrnAngeles, of volunteering with Orange County’s RAD (Rising Above Disabilities)rnCamps. “I knew I wanted to help, but it was a new experience for me and I was arnlittle nervous.”

Butrnwhatever nervousness Stauber felt didn’t last long after she began making connectionsrnwith RAD campers — and, in the process, receiving as much as she gave.

“Itrnwas really amazing, being able to participate in activities with them, to enjoyrnbeing with them,” says Stauber, treasuring her memories. “I think it reallyrncontributed to my growth as compassionate, patient person. And it helped mernappreciate the gifts God has given me.”

Thoserngifts include the ability not simply to play, but to excel in, competitivernsports — primarily soccer, as captain of Notre Dame’s 2017 team, but also crossrncountry and track, in which Stauber has steadily improved her times in the 800rnand 3200 meters as the season-ending league and CIF championship meetsrnapproach.

Yetrnas much as she might excel, sports for this Gonzaga-bound student-athlete isrnless about competition and more about building relationships with her peersrnthat extend beyond the athletic field — something she’s come to value as arnlifelong Catholic.

‘Anrnimportant foundation’

Therndaughter of a private pilot and a shelving unit designer, Stauber attendedrnAmerican Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach with her family, including an olderrnbrother (now a junior at Santa Clara University) and two younger twin brothersrn(now juniors at Loyola High).

“Goingrnto church every Sunday is important,” says Stauber, who also taught Sundayrnschool for 3-year-olds, “because having that faith gets you through hard timesrnin life.”

Shernalso attended American Martyrs School, and is grateful for her Catholicrneducation which, she asserts, “built an important foundation for me as far asrnhow you treat people and look at the world.”

That’srntrue in sports as well, she adds, where she has spent much of her young life.rnIn addition to playing soccer since age four, at the scholastic and clubrnlevels, Stauber also played rec-league basketball and club volleyball, and inrnseventh and eighth grade added cross country to the mix.

“WhenrnI came to Notre Dame, I wanted to focus on academics, so I only played soccer,”rnshe notes. “But going into my senior year, I thought it was time to take onrnmore challenges, so I ran cross country, and kept that going with track thisrnspring.”

Yetrnwhile her times have improved almost weekly, Stauber admits with a smile thatrn“I’m not that competitive. I like the camaraderie of sports, how you learn thernimportance of making friends. I’ve been fortunate to have had close friendsrnsince the sixth grade. And I’m really excited about going to Gonzaga with a fewrnmy Notre Dame Academy classmates.”

AtrnGonzaga, Stauber hopes to play club soccer, and maybe run track, although herrnfocus will be academics.

“Irnhope to study special education in college,” she says, “and for a career, Irnwant to stay in special ed, either as a teacher or behavioral therapist.”

Clearly,rnservice to others is something that Stauber — a member of NDA’s Honor Code,rnwhich promotes honorable conduct among students — realizes is part of who shernis as a Catholic. “It means a lot to me,” she says. “You just have to put yourrntrust in God, and things will work out.”