Name: Jonny Behrens
Key to Awesomeness:
Jonny Behrens, self-described as "optimistic, motivated and dedicated," is a senior who thrives when leading others to give back to the community and is passionate about improving the world.
Behrens has been involved with South Outreach since the club began his freshman year. He took over as the leader during his junior year.
South Outreach is dedicated to spreading awareness about poverty and the homeless. The club arranges speakers, including previously homeless individuals. It also participates in events such as "Sleep Out Saturday," when students from all over DuPage County spend the night outside in early November to gain some perspective on what the homeless encounter every night.
"Service is good no matter what but South Outreach takes the extra step to add a learning component," Behrens said.
When Behrens joined South Outreach his freshman year, he estimates there were 15 students involved. This year, more than 100 students attended the club's first meeting. Behrens said he's proud and excited by the growth of the club.
In addition to leading South Outreach, Biology teacher Sharon Olson said Behrens has been the driving force with his school's environmental club, Verterra. Last spring, Verterra encouraged students to pledge to "Do One Thing," to help the environment as part of a national competition. Behrens explained that this initiative became a huge program and resulted in 900 students pledging to change one lifestyle habit to become more green. These pledge cards created leaves in a forest in their commons area. "It was a very effective program," he said.
The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) honored Verterra's campaign, choosing them as winners of their annual competition at the national level and awarding the school $400.
"When students heard that the environmental club won a national award for the program, it became an even larger thing, people began to understand the issue and that they should do what they wrote on their pledge. It began to mean something. It was very exciting," Behrens said.
Behrens also participates in Youth and Government, Student Council, National Honor Society, Speech Team, Track and Field, and he works at Cantigny Golf Course.
ACE assisted Behrens in finding a summer internship working with "No Foam Chicago," which is working to ban styrofoam food packaging in Chicago. "It was interesting being involved in a science-related project with a political twist," he said. Behrens assisted the campaign's efforts by sending internet e-blasts, social blogging and brainstorming with the founder.
Behrens is currently focused on college applications and "learning how to slowly give over leadership to leave the clubs in good hands."
His future hopes are to "do something I enjoy that impacts society in a positive way ... There are a lot of options out there for me, but I will likely do something science related," Behrens said.
Behrens said his optimism drives him: "I have this view that the world can be something that's awesome and we have the opportunity and are capable to make it better."
Behrens credits his older sister for motivating him to get involved in service clubs and also to accept roles outside his comfort zone. He said his parents have also been very encouraging.