Patty Mondaca-Morales may fearlessly chatter your ear off in the first minute of knowing you, but don’t think for a moment she isn’t also listening.
This bright-haired and warm-hearted senior from Northfield High School was recently honored as one of Northfield’s Hometown Heroes by the Northfield Area United Way.
Led by her love for people, Mondaca-Morales volunteers with Northfield Shares Give 5, TORCH, Northfield Arts Guild, District One Hospital, a local retirement center and more. Such magnanimity inspired Northfield community members to vote Mondaca as one of their Hometown Heroes, an honor bestowed by the Northfield Area United Way to acknowledge supreme dedication to community involvement.
St. Olaf College Senior Michaela Marincic had the opportunity to chat with her about her volunteerism.
Q: What is the earliest volunteer experience you can remember?
A: “In seventh grade I volunteered at the historical society; I was a cashier. I enjoy history—it’s one of my favorite subjects, so that was fun to do. And then I didn’t really do much until this year. Now I’m really—whoosh!—into it. I love volunteering.”
Q: What do you enjoy about volunteering?
A: “I like the feeling of helping others and being able to walk out and be like, ‘I did a nice job. I made people happy, and I did it for free,’ you know?”
Q: You help many community organizations. Are any especially dear or important to you?
A: “The Northfield Shares Give 5. That’s where it all started. I was like, ‘Well, if I’m going to be preaching to others to give five hours [of volunteer service per month], I might as well start that too.’”
Q: Do you ever wish you had more time for sports, clubs, or just hanging out with friends? A: “Yeah, sometimes I just want to go home and watch TV or play on the computer, but it doesn’t fulfill me in the same way that helping somebody does. I like to be with other people … There’s a lot of people who tell me, ‘Why would I ever want to volunteer—it’s a waste of my time.’ But it’s actually really great if you try it out once … I feel like if [those people] volunteer once somewhere they really like, they’re gonna continue it.”
Q: Plans for after graduation?
A: “Uuuuh, run around in circles? Probably college, the normal.”
Q: What would you like to study?
A: “Probably education … I would love to work at TORCH [Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes]. I love TORCH so much.”
Q: I can see your excitement about TORCH. Why do you love this program so much?
A: “I feel so grateful towards them. I volunteer so much because of them, I have good grades because of them. I don’t know where I would be without TORCH.”
Q: If you had to tell me one fun fact?
A: “I’m boring. I don’t know, now I’m on the spot. Well, I love choir. You can put that as my fun fact.”
Q: In your various volunteer experiences, you must see a lot of people who need help and the organizations that support them. Can you think of any issues in the community that still need solutions?
A: “Mental health.”
Q: Where have you seen the need for mental health services?
A: “Through my volunteering, through Laura Baker, even through my friends at school. It can really affect people if they’re not treated. I feel like if everyone’s mental health is well, then they can go on and get a better education, and they can also start helping other people.
“[Poor mental health] can lead into poverty. Some people in poverty have mental health issues that may be why they are in poverty.”
Q: What can we do to promote psychological well-being?
A: “End the stigma. A lot of people are very hush-hush about it, they don’t like talking about what’s going on with them, so maybe if we say, ‘It’s alright if you’re depressed, you know, it’s alright. You can always get help.’”
Q: What is one thing every person could do to help their community? A: “Just listen. There’s always people that need help, always something you can do, so go and try to find it and find people that want to support you. We just need to listen.”