Chanhassen High School
Chanhassen High School senior Kali O’Keeffe is not afraid to put herself out there, which her long list of involvements can vouch for.
O’Keeffe has been playing hockey and softball for as long as she can remember and now plays varsity for both sports at the high school. She remembers begging her parents to let her play hockey, but she first had to take skating lessons. “I had my little figure skates and took skating lessons every week,” she says. “Until the next year I started playing and I loved it.”
Sports are a big part of O’Keeffe’s life, but not the only thing she loves to be a part of. She’s president of the student council, volunteers in the preschool room for 3-year-olds at her church, is a member of the National Honor Society and volunteers every other weekend with Feed My Starving Children as a member of the Key Club. “I really like to be in charge of things,” she says of her role as president. “My friends actually encouraged me to get involved. So I tried it out, not really expecting anything, and I loved it.”
In June, O’Keeffe participated in a mission trip to Malawi to help out in schools and assist the teachers. She also helped build the trip’s team of 10 from the Chanhassen area. “I reached out to the missions director at my church because I just had this feeling in my heart that I needed to help somebody,” she says.
In her final year of high school, O’Keeffe says she’s most excited to look back on the last four years’ memories. “I want to be able to look back and say ‘Yeah, I had some great experiences’ and I’ll remember these forever,” she says. “I’m excited to figure out what I want out of life.”
When it comes to college, O’Keeffe knows she wants to work with kids—most likely in psychology, education or social work—and wants to continue learning Spanish. She’s considering the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Colorado Boulder as prospective colleges.
Minnetonka High School
For Minnetonka High School senior Lauren Otolski, volunteering isn’t just another bullet point on her resume and college applications, although being a five-time recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award won’t hurt her chances of getting into college. “It’s been something I’ve been doing for so long that it’s just something I do,” says Otolski, who lives in Chanhassen. “I think I started in third grade.”
She started off with a neighborhood program called Kids in Dedicated Service, or “KiDS.” Now she’s racked up about 680 hours with Gale Woods Farm, where she spends most of her volunteer time. Otolski is also on the junior board of Kids Against Hunger in Excelsior, giving her a glimpse into how nonprofits run.
With her busy schedule of AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, volunteerism, marching band, writing for the Chanhassen Villager and for herself, and working with her classmates on their Legacy Project, Otolski strives to strike a balance among all her interests. “I don’t think I’d be as happy if I were just doing science or just focusing on writing,” she says. “I’m glad I’m able to do all of it.
In her final year of high school, Otolski says she’s most excited to be a leader in the marching band (she plays clarinet) and at school. She’s also working to earn her third-degree black belt before graduation.
In what free time she has, Otolski says she loves spending time outside with her family. Together, they’ve seen at least 80 national parks, with Glacier and Redwood national parks being her two favorites.
After graduation, Otolski says her college plans are all still tentative at this point. But her ideal path would be staying in the Midwest to double major in something science- and something writing-related. Ultimately, she says she “wants to do something meaningful.”
Eden Prairie High School
Making a difference in someone’s life can be among the most gratifying experiences. That’s why Eden Prairie High School senior George Mulder does what he does. “That’s basically all acting is,” Mulder says. “That’s why I do it, because I want to reach other people and make them feel something.”
Mulder started musical theater camps when he was in third grade. Now involved in mostly community theater in the area, Mulder’s favorite show thus far in his career was All Shook Up, and the favorite role he’s been cast in was as Herb in Junie B. Jones the Musical. For that role, he received an award for the best young actor under 18. “I really like the environment of acting,” Mulder says. “We’re all going toward one goal, but still having so much fun along the way.”
He’s also in the Spotlight Critical Review program with Hennepin Theatre Trust, and was a student director of a children’s production at Stages Theatre Company called I Love You, Stinky Face.
But acting isn’t the only way he makes a difference in the lives of others. When Mulder was 9 years old, he was encouraged to participate in a triathlon with the Pinky Swear Foundation (formerly the Miracles of Mitch Foundation). Ever since the closing ceremonies of his first race where he saw the top fundraisers on stage, Mulder decided he wanted to be more involved with the foundation. Pinky Swear rallies around families who have been affected by pediatric cancer, helping meet their immediate needs, like paying for groceries or providing other forms of support. Mulder has raised about $40,000 for the foundation in the last eight years. “I really fell in love with the people there,” he says. “And the organization is unique because it helps the families directly.” Mulder has been one of the top 10 fundraisers with Pinky Swear for the last six years.
He’s also in student council, choir, Spanish Club and National Honor Society, and won the ExCEL award—Excellence in Community Education and Leadership. But what he’s most excited about for his senior year is spending it with his friends and finding out where everyone goes after high school.
As for his own second act, Mulder says he’s “looking all around” for college, in search of the best musical theater program he can find.