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Making the most of Marquette

Makena McConnaughhay slams down a spike during a match against Peoria Christian.
Makena McConnaughhay slams down a spike during a match against Peoria Christian.

Marquette Academy high school is rich with opportunity for students.

And senior Makena McConnaughhay has been cashing in, not only for herself but also for her community.

All Marquette students are required to complete 30 Christian service hours each of their four years.

Service hours are based on the Catholic Church’s teachings on the Works of Mercy, charitable actions that benefit others.

But Makena has completed much more than the minimum.

By last count, she was up to 572 hours — and does not seem to be slowing down.

“People ask me, ‘Do you make her go do this stuff?’ ” said her mother, Mindy McConnaughhay.

The answer is Makena just seemed to take to the program as a freshman.

“Now it’s just second nature,” Mindy said. “Any time there’s an event or anyone says they need help, she is there working it. She just does it.”

“Anything you go and do outside school activities that you don’t get paid for earns you hours,” Makena explains.

For her, that has included volunteering for Labor of Love, Ottawa Riverfest's Welcomeburger, Freezin’ for a Reezin’ and the Key Club blood drive, as well as five years as a coach for Ottawa’s Volleytots team and a year as an assistant coach with the Wedron Wildfire 10 team.

Of course, there is much more to Makena’s academic career.

She is a second-generation Marquette High School student.

Her dad, Jamie McConnaughhay, of the McConnaughhay Roofing family, graduated in 1998, and Mindy in 1999.

Makena started school at St. Patrick elementary school and then moved to Marquette Academy when Ottawa’s three elementary schools merged in 2010.

At the high school, she found a personally fulfilling experience she does not hesitate to recommend to those who may be considering Marquette.

“I would say go here because opportunities are limitless and people are welcoming,” she said. “Because we’re a small school you can do pretty much everything. You’re not limited to doing just one sport the entire year or being in two clubs.”

Makena is proof of her claim.

All four years, she played volleyball and softball, including serving as captain of both teams the past two years. She participated in cheerleading and basketball for three years, served as student council vice president for four years, was named to homecoming court for two years and is a member of the Fine Arts Club.

This year Makena has been joined at the high school by her sister, Addison, age 15, another multi-sport student.

With two active daughters, Jamie and Mindy stay organized with a multicolored schedule posted on the kitchen refrigerator.

It can be hectic, said Mindy, but she and Jamie show their support by attending as many events as possible.

This fall, Makena will attend St. Ambrose University, a Catholic liberal arts college with fewer than 4,000 students in Davenport, Iowa. Because of her class credit work at Illinois Valley Community College during the past few years, she will start her college career with 30 hours of credit.

She will continue her softball career and work toward a Bachelors of Science in nursing degree.

“I want to be a nurse because I really like helping people,” she said. 

“I think that shows a lot about her character and her heart,” Mindy said. “Makena’s a giving person. When she said she was going into nursing, that didn’t surprise me at all. And I knew that was something she would be capable of because she is a compassionate and caring person.”

Even so, Mindy is not looking forward to the change.

“I’m not ready for her to leave for school, but I’m not worried about her leaving because I knew with her, it's school first. Everything else second,” Mindy said.

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