Article by Mike Nelson
Published on April 26, 2018 on AngelusNews.com
The first time Michelle Stauber signed up to assist at a camp for developmentally disabled youth and adults a couple of summers ago, she did so with an open, but admittedly apprehensive, mindset.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” says the senior at Notre Dame Academy in West Los Angeles, of volunteering with Orange County’s RAD (Rising Above Disabilities) Camps. “I knew I wanted to help, but it was a new experience for me and I was a little nervous.”
But whatever nervousness Stauber felt didn’t last long after she began making connections with RAD campers — and, in the process, receiving as much as she gave.
“It was really amazing, being able to participate in activities with them, to enjoy being with them,” says Stauber, treasuring her memories. “I think it really contributed to my growth as compassionate, patient person. And it helped me appreciate the gifts God has given me.”
Those gifts include the ability not simply to play, but to excel in, competitive sports — primarily soccer, as captain of Notre Dame’s 2017 team, but also cross country and track, in which Stauber has steadily improved her times in the 800 and 3200 meters as the season-ending league and CIF championship meets approach.
Yet as much as she might excel, sports for this Gonzaga-bound student-athlete is less about competition and more about building relationships with her peers that extend beyond the athletic field — something she’s come to value as a lifelong Catholic.
‘An important foundation’
The daughter of a private pilot and a shelving unit designer, Stauber attended American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach with her family, including an older brother (now a junior at Santa Clara University) and two younger twin brothers (now juniors at Loyola High).
“Going to church every Sunday is important,” says Stauber, who also taught Sunday school for 3-year-olds, “because having that faith gets you through hard times in life.”
She also attended American Martyrs School, and is grateful for her Catholic education which, she asserts, “built an important foundation for me as far as how you treat people and look at the world.”
That’s true in sports as well, she adds, where she has spent much of her young life. In addition to playing soccer since age four, at the scholastic and club levels, Stauber also played rec-league basketball and club volleyball, and in seventh and eighth grade added cross country to the mix.
“When I came to Notre Dame, I wanted to focus on academics, so I only played soccer,” she notes. “But going into my senior year, I thought it was time to take on more challenges, so I ran cross country, and kept that going with track this spring.”
Yet while her times have improved almost weekly, Stauber admits with a smile that “I’m not that competitive. I like the camaraderie of sports, how you learn the importance of making friends. I’ve been fortunate to have had close friends since the sixth grade. And I’m really excited about going to Gonzaga with a few my Notre Dame Academy classmates.”
At Gonzaga, Stauber hopes to play club soccer, and maybe run track, although her focus will be academics.
“I hope to study special education in college,” she says, “and for a career, I want to stay in special ed, either as a teacher or behavioral therapist.”
Clearly, service to others is something that Stauber — a member of NDA’s Honor Code, which promotes honorable conduct among students — realizes is part of who she is as a Catholic. “It means a lot to me,” she says. “You just have to put your trust in God, and things will work out.”
Photo Caption: Michelle Stauber enjoys a light moment at RAD Camp, where she has volunteered for several summers. The Notre Dame Academy soccer captain and distance runner will attend Gonzaga this fall. (Photo credit: Michelle Stauber)