Michael Thornton is a senior at LAMP, president of National Honor Society and co-president of Key Club. Though only 18 years old, he has made service to others a way of life. It is also his care goal for the future, probably structured around the field of education. His explanation for volunteering has always been simple: “It's the thing that makes me most happy."
Michael hasn't started any soup kitchens or set up any new programs. He serves multiple programs already in place, individuals who come to him or are referred to him for help, people who just pop up on his radar. When he read a news story about our troops needing personal items in Iraq, he rallied his church teens to collect and mail packages overseas. When Katrina hit, he organized LAMP students to collect and deliver boxes of clothes and household goods directly to families in need in the Gulf. He also rolled up his sleeves to serve food and entertain children at shelters in Montgomery. When the organizers of the Discovery Village project at Old Alabama Town requested help for the weekend build, Michael gathered LAMP students to participate. He not only puts himself on the line, but he consistently leads others to step up as well.
Michael has done so much; it was hard for him to narrow down his service on his college applications. In addition to his work with the National Honor Society and the Key Club, he has done so many one-on-one things for individuals just as a matter of course in daily life. There have been many nights when he was making cards, wrapping items, or racing to stores for hours to purchase gifts or balloons or clothes for some family or project one of his clubs has "adopted" in spite of the long hours of homework facing him. On most of those nights he'd get to bed well after 1:00 am and then head back out my 6:40am the next morning to get things in place before school classes began. He has managed to maintain a 4.5 GPA.
Michael has spent many hours of his summers and school breaks at service projects as well, mostly through Heart Work Camp and the "Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club" at St. Bede Parish. The Club meets for early Mass and breakfast, then heads out to do service at soup kitchens, Catholic Charities, senior citizen homes, the battered women's center, etc. Heart Work Camp requires teens to raise the funds to purchase all of the supplies needed and to travel to another city to execute projects for people who need assistance. For a week each summer, they sleep on a gym or classroom floor and spend their days painting, building, and cleaning, etc. in the homes, schools, or service agencies of needy areas. Michael has served in Mobile and Atlanta and will travel to Florida to work this summer.
It seems Michael is always on call for teachers, youth group advisors, and coaches who see someone or something in need. He has helped at the Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, AUM, several public elementary schools, LAMP, St. Bede Church, nursing homes, Father Walter Purcell's Children's Center, the YMCA, UNICEF, the Humane Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research, MACOA, the Riverfront Artfests, Jubilee Kidfests, the Sunshine Center, and St. Bede Vacation Bible School.