group of MSM students and staff with Children's Library staff member and award plaque

The Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center in Little Rock has selected the Mount St. Mary Academy Junior Service Learning Program as its 2023 Volunteer of the Year. The Children’s Library was added to the list of approximately 30 locations served by the program in fall 2022.

“This past year, the Mount St. Mary student volunteers helped us with all kinds of projects that enabled us to have fun decorations, well-prepared programs, beautiful book displays, and a clean campus for all our library visitors and staff to enjoy,” said Elizabeth Newbern, assistant manager and volunteer coordinator at the library. “We have been so grateful for the help the school has provided us for the past year and half, and we are excited to see what new opportunities come up in the future.”

Patrice O’Donoghue, who serves as the library’s teaching garden coordinator, echoed her colleague’s sentiments. “We love the opportunity to work with these young women through their service learning program,” she said.

This is not the first time the Junior Service Learning Program has been recognized for its impact in the community. In 2021, it was honored as one of three finalists for Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Arkansas Chapter during its annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon. ACCESS, a longtime partner with the service learning program, submitted the nomination at that time.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to nominate Mount St. Mary Academy’s Junior Service Learning Program for this award,” Suzanne Carter, assistant director of early childhood at ACCESS, said in 2021. “Our longest-running volunteer program, this partnership has enabled ACCESS to further its mission and exposes these volunteers to a variety of possible career opportunities for their futures. We hope this nomination brings awareness to the philanthropic and service-oriented spirit instilled in and shared by the students at Mount St. Mary Academy.”

Each year during their theology class periods, juniors at Mount St. Mary Academy collectively devote thousands of service hours volunteering at community organizations across central Arkansas, from hospitals and hospice care facilities to schools and nursing homes. The recognition is a testament to the impact of the school’s Catholic foundation and traditions of service and mercy, which have inspired young women to make a difference in their communities for 173 years.

“We want to thank the Children’s Library for its partnership and for this great honor,” Lauren Lawrence, MSM theology teacher and service learning program coordinator, said. “Having the ability to model Catherine McAuley’s true mission of service through our Junior Service Learning Program gives our girls firsthand experience in learning how to put their own wants and needs aside to focus on others. This wonderful recognition reinforces the positive change our students make in our community.”