Beth Clark can’t remember a time when she wasn’t a volunteer. Living on the family farm, her calendar was always full with chores to be done. Plus, at Lexington High School she was active in all things musical as well as competing all four years in track and field. Her senior year she was team captain and a state finalist in discus. But, since childhood she’s made time to volunteer.
Her main focus has been on a program through the Special Olympics agency for the Bloomington-Normal area called Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (SOAR), but it doesn’t end there. Her community involvement includes: Boy Scouts of America, McLean County 4-H, Illinois FFA Association, FFA Fall Cleanup, Key Club Holiday Bags, Venture Crew Valentine’s Day Cards, and 4-H National Day of Service. She has also served on her church’s Sunday school worship team and gone on Fellowship of Christian Athletes mission trips. It’s a packed schedule, but her satisfaction level is high.
“I love it,” Clark said. “To me it’s something that’s almost in my DNA. I don’t do it for the kudos, but because I love to help people.”
That dedication to serving others in her community has helped Clark earn a McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship, which provides free tuition to students who have a history of leadership, community service, and commitment to the community. She is one of eight recipients.
Her parents, Bob and Sally Clark, taught their daughter and her twin brother, Brett (Beth is proudly older by a mere second or two), about the importance of helping others.
“I believe my parents raised me right,” she said.
Clark chose Illinois State University based on her academic interests and because it’s close to her family, especially important now as her father battles cancer. The timeliness and importance of the good news about the scholarship were not lost on her.
“My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in October 2020, so receiving this scholarship right now is just great timing,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
A message on her watch was how Clark learned of her good fortune. She was pretty excited.
“I was in my ag shop at Lexington High School teaching ag in the classroom to grade school kids for National FFA week,” she said. “I had just started an activity with a classmate when I got a notification from ISU Admissions on my Apple watch.
“I completely lost my breath and was having a real moment. I was ecstatic.”
Clark’s family, well-known in the Lexington area, has been farming for generations in McLean County. She recently completed a year as vice president of their FFA chapter; her grandfather is a past president of the same chapter, and her dad was active in FFA in his high school days. It makes sense that she’ll begin her freshman year in the fall as an agriculture teacher education major.
“My dream career would be to come back and teach at Lexington High School and replace Mr. Brian Wiltz,” Clark said. Wiltz, her high school ag teacher and FFA advisor, is someone she admires.
When she gets settled into her first year of college, Clark plans to check out opportunities for extracurricular activities that match her interests.
“I’m very excited to look for national organizations like sororities, collegiate farm bureaus, and collegiate ag clubs,” Clark said. “So, I can spread the word about ag awareness and education.”
During the pandemic, she began creating kindness rocks by painting positive messages on stones. She was hoping to use her newfound hobby to lift the spirits of others. She didn’t realize that her rock art would evolve into a fundraiser that so far has generated $300 for a crucial backpack program in the Lexington School District.
“It’s run by the life skills class, which is made up of special needs kids, and they run it,” Clark said. “They use the money to fill backpacks with food for families with food insecurities.”
In recent months, her family has been on the receiving end of kindness in the form of meals, cards, and prayers during her dad’s illness. Neighbors have been eager to give back to a family that has given so much to others. In response, Clark was inspired to create handmade beaded bracelets to say thank you, but it goes deeper.
“In the future, I can foresee my family and close friends advocating for cancer awareness and raising funds to support others who suffer from cancer,” she said.
Painting messages of kindness on rocks also helped her, Clark said, and she eventually expanded by painting wood rounds, picture frames, and small wooden figurines. Next up she’ll hold painting classes to teach kids how to create their own positive art pieces.
Her favorite message so far on one of her creations reads: “Throw kindness around like confetti.”