Abbie McKenzie has always had a servant’s heart.
Since her life as a high schooler started four years ago, the McNary High School senior has been heavily involved in the Keizer community.
Little did she know how much it would pay off.
Back in January, McKenzie was awarded the Keizer Elks Scholarship for her excellence as a student, as well as for her participation in community service and extra curricular activities.
“I felt pretty honored to receive any sort of scholarships from the Elks (Lodge),” McKenzie said. “Serving the community is super important to me.”
But that was just the beginning.
Each year, the National Elks Foundation awards 500 four-year scholarships to the highest-rated applicants for their Most Valuable Student Competition — male and female students compete separately.
The scholarships range from $1,000 per year to $12,500 per year, for students pursuing a four-year degree, on a full-time basis (minimum of 12 semester hours), in a U.S. college or university — all scholarships are in the form of certificates of award conditional upon the full-time enrollment of the winner in an accredited U.S. college or university.
After she received second-place recognition in the Elks district competition and seventh place at the state competition, McKenzie got the call to notify her that she was one of the 500 students in the country that will be receiving a scholarship from the Elks National Foundation.
“I teared up in the car when I got the call,” McKenzie said. “I really didn’t anticipate winning or even going that far. It was really exciting.”
McKenzie currently has a 3.92 grade-point average while taking weighted classes at McNary, but it’s what she does in the community that really causes her to stand out.
McKenzie has been involved in Young Life in Keizer all throughout all four years as a high schooler. Currently, she is a student leader with the high school club and also serves as a middle school leader for Wyldlife.
“Whether it be our Young Life club or the many different things she’s involved with at school, places are better off when Abbie is there and involved,” said Keizer Young Life staff member Beeb Gerlicher.
For McKenzie, Young Life was the starting point of her involvement at her school and in the community.
“(Young Life) has definitely been a really good platform for me,” McKenzie said. “I feel like that’s how I came to know a ton of people, and it has really helped me to get myself out there in the community.”
“It’s been cool to see how I’ve gotten other kids from my school involved.”
At school, McKenzie has been involved with the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) throughout her time at McNary, where she has learned about public speaking and entrepreneurship.
It was through FBLA where McKenzie got connected with Danielle Bethell from the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.
In the summer of 2016, McKenzie spent time shadowing Bethell at Keizer’s annual Blue Day event.
By the time Blue Day came around in 2018, McKenzie was the one who was running the show
“I was looking for students who wanted to learn how to coordinate community service events, and eventually become the primary coordinator of McNary’s annual Blue Day event. Abbie eagerly stepped up to the role,” Bethell said. “She is outgoing, kind and very capable of all the goals she has ahead of her. I am proud to call her a friend and excited to see her life’s journey unfold.”
The thought of being at school during the summer might be cringeworthy for a lot of teenagers. But McKenzie couldn’t have been more excited to take on the challenge.
“I really like school. So being able to be at school for a month of the summer and then to plan for an event in August and then hang out with the principal and athletic director, I was just thrilled about it,” McKenzie said about planning Blue Day.
“It was an amazing learning experience.”
But her commitment to her school and her community doesn’t stop there.
Along with serving as the president of National Honor Society at McNary, McKenzie has been involved in student government for the last four years.
“McKenzie is an incredibly kind and hardworking student at McNary. She is an active member in our student government and is a great planner, communicator and liaison between school administration and the student body,” McNary principal Erik Jespersen said.
Although the hard work has paid off in a big way for McKenzie, she was never in this for the accolades.
“I’m very proud of the work that I have done and all the hours that I’ve put in,” McKenzie said. “It’s been awesome to see how that I’m being rewarded for services that were done out of selflessness.”
McKenzie will find out next month if she one of the 20 finalists that will get to participate in an all-expenses paid leadership weekend in Chicago. But in the meantime, she is focused on where she is going to go to college next year — Stanford University and Point Loma University are at the top of the list.
Though she plans to be out of state next year, McKenzie is very grateful for the time she spent at McNary and how it helped her become who she is today.
“Going to McNary and serving in Keizer has really helped me grow as a person,” McKenzie said. “I have become more social and confident and it has just benefited me a lot.”