Miriam Zappa likes to build things. It’s in her DNA as her father, Mark ’85, has had his own construction company for decades. It’s no wonder then that her favorite experiences as a volunteer often involve constructing something.
“I have really enjoyed volunteering opportunities where I was able to build things, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Bed Blitz (through the West Bloomington Revitalization Project),” Zappa said. “Construction and building have always been passions of mine since I was little, so finding a way where I could serve others while doing those things has been great.”
Some events have been satisfying for other reasons. She remembers helping out as a young athlete at the Boys and Girls Club on a cold winter day. It was Christmas time, and much-needed gifts were going to single-parent or low-income families.
“It was our annual volunteering day for my basketball team, and we were wrapping presents from Toys for Tots to give to families,” Zappa said. “Seeing the joy of the parents as they walked through the line, picking out toys, and knowing that this would allow them to give their kids the Christmas they deserved was an incredible sight to witness.”
Such dedication to serving others has helped Zappa, a Normal Community High School graduate and incoming Illinois State University freshman, 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.
During her high school years she participated in a service project called Bed Blitz, where again her construction skills came in handy, this time to build bed frames for local families in need. She also joined her school’s Key Club and got to volunteer for a carnival at an elementary school. She had loved a similar event as a young student, so she was excited about the opportunity. The day was a success when one of her former teachers, who had brought his children, thanked her for helping provide his family with a fun experience.
Zappa said she loves to volunteer because she gets to bring joy to others, but she also loves helping her community and doing so with good friends at her side.
“Encouraging my friends to volunteer with me or letting them know about different opportunities to better our community is one of the best feelings,” Zappa said.
Another of her favorites was volunteering at Midwest Food Bank through her church last year. She and her friends had fun competing to see who could fill the most boxes.
Her immediate reaction to the news regarding her scholarship was disbelief. Zappa had become conditioned to seeing congratulatory notes from colleges simply for completing an application, so she initially didn’t believe she’d won such a prestigious scholarship.
“I thought it was a joke until I started reading and realized I had actually won,” she said. “I was so shocked it probably took five minutes before I finally realized what was going on. I ran down the hall to tell my mom (Karen ’88) who jumped around our living room with me. I called my dad after that to let him know the good news, and he was very excited.”
At Illinois State, she plans to major in construction management. Post-college, Zappa hopes to follow a familiar family path and start her own construction company specializing in residential building. Once she arrives on campus this fall she has her eye on several extracurricular activities.
“I plan to get involved in Encounter, Alternative Breaks, Habitat for Humanity, and the Construction Management Student Association,” she said.
Zappa called the scholarship a blessing to her family that will not only help her but will also help as she continues to serve the community through volunteering.
“With this scholarship I will be able to focus on helping others and my school work instead of worrying about how to pay for college,” she said. “I am so blessed to have gotten this amazing opportunity.”