Palatine teen earns Congressional Award for volunteerism
For 16-year-old Caitlin Wilson, the Palatine Public Library is her "happy place," so it's no wonder that's where she chose to spend most of her volunteering to earn a bronze Congressional Award.
"I walk in and I immediately get excited," said Caitlin, a junior at Palatine High School. "I've been there so often, and I know the place so well, it's like a second home."
Caitlin started volunteering at the library in the seventh grade and has been serving on the library's teen advisory board since she was a freshman.
To earn the Congressional Award, she completed 111.25 hours of volunteer service -- more than the 100 required -- mostly at the library, but also for Palatine Township's Apple Tree campaign, which collects school supplies for underprivileged students.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten presented Caitlin the award last week at the library. Melissa Gardner, the library's assistant director for public services, said she's been impressed with Caitlin's work ethic and positive attitude.
"We are lucky to have you," Gardner told Caitlin.
Library associate Kaitlin Mathers said staff members have "nothing but good things to say" about Caitlin's contributions. "She is very involved, and is the first person to offer her services when we need extra help," Mathers said.
The Congressional Award program is voluntary, nonpartisan and noncompetitive; young people can register when they are 13½ years old and must complete their volunteering hours by their 24th birthday.
Caitlin said she's been going to the library with her parents pretty much since she was born. She vividly remembers signing up for the summer reading program as a firt-grader and being excited about the opportunity to win prizes simply for reading books, she said.
These days, she reads a bit of everything, including romance, sci-fi and fantasy. A love for reading runs in her family: her parents met at a now-closed bookstore in Palatine.
Caitlin said she wants to study computer science, and already has visited several colleges.