While attending the four-day Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference in June 2019, Addison Cervantes was challenged to complete 100 service hours in one year. By the time she graduated from high school, Cervantes exceeded this goal by 82 hours and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award as a result.
Cervantes, a Bloomington native and Central Catholic High school alum, began volunteering long before high school and has accumulated over 350 service hours since eighth grade.
Although Cervantes did not plan to attend college near home at first, her close relationship with her family combined with Illinois State University’s highly regarded Mennonite College of Nursing and receiving the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship persuaded her to attend the University starting this fall. This award provides free tuition for up to four years to first-year students who have demonstrated a history of leadership, community service, and commitment to their McLean County communities.
Cervantes has volunteered with many organizations, including local churches, Catholic Heart Work Camp, St. Jude, the Alzheimer’s Association, and OSF St. Joseph’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles. During the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Cervantes made masks to donate to school and health care personnel. She especially enjoyed working with people with disabilities through Easter Seals, Miracle League, and Special Olympics, and packing meals at the Midwest Food Bank.
“Helping people with special needs makes you feel good that you were able to make their day, and seeing their smiles when they win a meet or hit the ball is really exciting,” said Cervantes. “With the Midwest Food Bank and packaging all of those things for people in need, you take for granted what you have, so being able to give to those people who don’t or can’t have those things is really nice.”
Cervantes plans to remain involved with the local organizations she is currently volunteering for, while also exploring Illinois State’s registered student organizations (RSOs) and intramural sports. Cervantes was a four-sport athlete in high school and likes to stay active. Additionally, as a member of the Illinois State Honors Program, Cervantes is planning to implement a system that will encourage more Bloomington-Normal high school students to volunteer and be rewarded for their dedication to community service.
“For my Honors Program project, I’m going to create a Silver Cord Award for volunteer work at Bloomington-Normal high schools,” said Cervantes. “With this program, students could sign up their freshman year of high school and pledge to get a certain number of volunteer hours, possibly 200, within the community to earn a Silver Cord to wear at graduation.”
Cervantes wants to channel her passion for helping others into her future nursing career as well. She took classes to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in high school and received the 2021 “Strongest Work Ethic in the CNA program” award from the Bloomington Area Career Center.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field, and then I took my CNA class this year, so I’m a new CNA, and that really pushed me into doing nursing,” said Cervantes.
While it is clear that Cervantes is a leader within her community, she considers her leadership style to be more laid-back.
“I’m a leader, but not a very outspoken one,” said Cervantes. “I like to lead by example, not by telling people what to do.”
With only the summer separating her from being on campus, Cervantes is most looking forward to making lifelong connections at Illinois State.
“Meeting new people and expanding my friendships is really important to me,” said Cervantes.
Cervantes is proud of what she has accomplished and is fortunate to have experienced it. She is looking forward to continuing her civic engagement endeavors at the University, in Bloomington-Normal, and beyond.
“I have really enjoyed serving my community and feel I have received more than I have given.”