Oak Park graduate leaves lasting legacy, earns praise for theatre paint movement

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- She just graduated from Oak Park High School, and this week's Reaching 4 Excellence young achiever is a Missouri Scholars 100, a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, and a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient.

Anna Merkel is getting lots of praise for her movement called "Paint It Green for Oak Park Theatre."

"My mom got me started on the idea of maybe doing something with paint," Merkel said.

She loves the arts and prides herself on four years of working as part of the crew for the theatre department at Oak Park.

"It's really close to my heart," she affirmed.

During her many hours spent behind the scenes -- she noticed a need: paint -- for the different stage sets. The Girl Scout was preparing to seek her Gold Award and decided to host paint drives to collect unused paint for the department.

"It's equivalent to the Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts," she said of the award. "We really had a lot of fun during like the paint work days."

She collected 200 gallons of paint over a two-year period.

"In the 2015-16 school year we saved over $400 in paint costs from our budget," she said.

"When she presented it to thousand of people at the Girl Scout expo, I got to see Anna on that day just beaming with younger scouts coming by and being inspired by her projects," Lori Dameron, gifted resource specialist, said.

Dameron and Merkel spend lots of time together. Merkel is the president of the Key Club -- which is focused on service -- Dameron is the school sponsor.

"She's a caring person, she loves to get involved in school," Dameron said.

Merkel plans to be an engineer, and says now that she's a proud graduate, the thespian board will continue her mission in the years to come.

"I'm proud of sort of getting leadership opportunities, because that's not something I imagined I would have," Merkel said.

She is one of the first "Stamps Scholars" at Oak Park, and will go to the University of Missouri in the fall on a full-ride scholarship.