“It is important to be involved in your community because without involvement, a community doesn’t exist,” says Laura McDonald, a senior at Lusher Charter School.

After participating in the 4-H Citizen Washington Focus event, a weeklong conference in Washington D.C., a couple of students at Lusher, including McDonald, came up with the idea of an afterschool program to teach life skills to elementary students. Lions and Cubs is an afterschool mentoring program at Lusher elementary school where high school students teach life skills to third, fourth and fifth graders. The skills taught include anti-bullying, service, study skills, fitness, independent thinking, nutrition and Project Pride rules.

“I’ve learned copious amounts about teaching, planning and communication, including consistency and clarity in communication, inclusion of students in a classroom, the techniques used to educate kids and how to plan events out over time,” says McDonald.

After spending her junior year getting high-schoolers to volunteer for the program, Lions and Cubs was implemented in October 2015; McDonald taught 20 girls about a life skills.

“This experience is so important to me because I get to help kids gain skills needed to be successful leaders. I get to talk to these kids and hear their opinions, which I find so inspiring,” says McDonald.

Matt Holt, McDonald’s former Trinity Episcopal Church youth group leader, inspired her to become an activist. Holt was active in the New Orleans community by organizing service projects for the youth group to feed the homeless through Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Holt showed McDonald what it means to be involved in the community.

“By being involved in your community, you get to make a change that helps the community, and you personally get to see change happen, which is an invaluable experience.”

McDonald is involved in many organizations, both at Lusher and within her community; she also participates in the Certificate of Artistry Dance program, which allows her to study dance on a daily basis. She is the president of the National Honor Society and Lusher’s 4-H Club, and the secretary of Lusher’s Culture Club. She also is a Student Ambassador and volunteered at Touro Hospital.  

McDonald isn’t exactly sure where she’s going to college next year, but she is interested in studying healthcare, mathematics or nonprofit business.