United Way awards annual college scholarships to area high-school senior volunteers

Published 12:58 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2021

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — United Way of Southwest Michigan recently bestowed this year’s Volunteer United Youth Scholarship Awards to one winner from each of the three counties in its area — Berrien, Cass and Van Buren — who have demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism through innovation, dedication and advocacy for community improvement throughout their high school careers.

In 2021, the annual scholarship awards go to Sarah Jannings, of Lake Michigan Catholic High School (to attend Saint Mary’s College in the fall), Drew Bidwell, of Edwardsburg High School (Hope College), and Hahna Gorenz, of Michigan Lutheran High School (Southwestern Michigan College).

While still in high school, Sarah Jannings is taking dual-enrollment courses at Lake Michigan College. She is a member of National Honor Society, Environmental Club, Rotary Interact Club, Key Club, Sacred Life Club, Class Council, 4-H Clubs, International Club, and more.

“As I look around my community, I can see it growing from volunteerism,” she said. “Through my own volunteer endeavors, I’ve helped to make a positive difference in my community, and I know if others volunteer their time to help those in need, they can too.”

“Determination” and “perseverance” are two words that Drew Bidwell’s teacher used to describe him. During his senior year, Bidwell was an elected official of National Honor Society and won the Ron Holland Scholar Athlete of the Year. He wrestled and played football throughout his high school career, earning all-state honors. He was motivated to volunteer at the Edwardsburg Sports Complex because he wanted to give kids in Edwardsburg a place to stay active, participate in sports, and create memories that will last a lifetime. In the fall, Bidwell plans to play collegiate football and major in business and economics.

High School senior Hahna Gorenz said she is ready for the next stage of her education.

“I’ve had four blessed years in high school, and I am very excited to start a new chapter pursuing nursing this fall,” she said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to help the community around me and hope to inspire others to do the same.”

Gorenz volunteered at Lighthouse Attic and New Buffalo Fire Department. She went on a mission trip to Alaska and taught Sunday School to preschoolers. In 2019, Gorenz received over 2,000 donations to create care packages full of toys, stuffed animals, and books for children at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital. She has decided to work in the medical field so she can give back to the community in the future.

“We are fortunate to have in our community so many young people who want to help others from an early age. Not only does southwest Michigan benefit from their contributions, but it sets them up for later success because of the experience gained from volunteering,” said Debbie Ramirez, volunteer engagement director at United Way of Southwest Michigan. “We are proud to award our youth volunteer leaders in a way to helps launch them into a bright future, full of meaning.”

This year’s winners will be honored, along with other volunteer leader award winners, at UWSM’s annual Volunteer Recognition Event, to be hosted on Oct. 7.