CAMERON, Mo. -- A Northland teenager came away with a gold medal from the summer games -- the summer games of career and technical education.
Shelbie Kirkendoll of Kearney is the only high school student from the Greater Kansas City region to win a top prize at the big National SkillsUSA Championships. And our Fox 4 Young Achiever of the Week is also a champion of volunteerism and philanthropy with a heart of gold.
Warmth. Concern. Empathy. Caring. Her supervisors at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron say it's all deeply genuine in Shelbie Kirkendoll as she interacts with the residents. Fresh off her senior year at Kearney High School in nearby Kearney, Mo., Shelbie's a recreational therapy aide here, working with veterans with Alzheimer's, dementia and other special needs conditions, the center's most challenging population.
"I absolutely love it," says Shelbie about working with the residents. "It's just so fulfilling being around these veterans. They fulfill my life." Her boss here says Shelbie has uncommon skill and maturity for one still so young.
"She's just so compassionate and caring," says Administrator Bradley Haggard. "And you can just see that when she touches a vet's hand or shoulder. And she just has that maturity level that she knows, 'This is what I want to do, I want to care for people.'" Shelbie's going into nursing and says she'd like nothing better than to be a hospice nurse one day soon.
"My grandpa was in hospice before he passed away," says Shelbie about what sparked her interest in hospice. "And I want to be able to help people at the lowest time of their life. And the family. It's a really, really crucial time of their life. And I really want to make a difference at that time."
Shelbie has an impressive start on her life goal. She's already a Certified Nursing Assistant and a Licensed Pharmacy Technician. And she soared through health care courses at Excelsior Springs Area Career Center where she was Student of the Year.
"Right away I knew she was a leader," says Brian Smarker, an instructor at Excelsior Springs Area Career Center who got to know Shelbie as she became president of the school's Skills USA chapter. "And she expresses it joyfully. She's very exuberant. Very outgoing. Very professional in everything she does."
Shelbie struck gold this summer at the National SkillsUSA Championships competition for the country's top career and technical students. She won in the Health Occupations Professional Portfolio competition, crafting a superb compilation of her career preparation and personal activities and accomplishments and then dazzling the judges with a terrific oral presentation.
"It's about selling yourself," says Shelbie of the importance of putting together a great portfolio. "As an employee, prospectively, you are selling yourself to an employer."
All of her stellar accomplishments and honors mean a lot to Shelbie but there's something else that's very big in her life that means just as much. She has been a dedicated, seemingly tireless volunteer and philanthropist for years, much of it for health care organizations.
She started volunteering nearly six years ago for charity projects sponsored by a the Target store in Liberty, Mo. where her mom is a manager. She volunteers at Liberty Hospital in the cancer center and at Continua Hospice.
A talented softball player herself, Shelbie almost single-handedly put on a benefit softball game that raised $1,500 for the American Cancer Society. The project made her a Missouri State Finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, one of the world's top honors for community service and philanthropy by young people.
"I really just want to make people happy," says Shelbie. And she's succeeding at it gloriously.
Shelbie is starting nursing classes at Missouri Western State University next week with enough college credit hours she racked up in high school and at the career center to be a sophomore.
FOX 4 News is Working for You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.