When South Lakes senior Lauren Skillman heard she won an award from the state council of the Knights of Columbus, her first thought was she had not applied for it. Those who knew her, however, submitted one for her, recognizing her commitment to community service.
"It was such a great honor, it surprised me a lot," said 18-year-old Skillman. The Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus named Skillman as Outstanding Young Woman of the Year. Competition for the award is based on scholastic achievement, church and community service and extracurricular activities.
Jim Morrissey, trustee of the Reston-based Father Harris Findlay Knights of Columbus Council, said a large number of councils submit applicants for the award. "It’s highly competitive," said Morrissey. "The council is very proud of her." Members of the St. Thomas à Becket Catholic Church in Reston submitted an application on Skillman’s behalf.
Morrissey said Skillman is an exceptional young woman, and quite personable. At South Lakes she participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including being a member of the swim team all four years, a member of the future business leaders of America and manager of the golf team.
As part of her community service projects, Skillman participated in the Arlington Catholic Diocese Youth Work Camp each of the past four years. She spent a week each summer remodeling houses for those in need. She provided her labor and raised funds for travel and living expenses, as well as building materials.
"IT WAS A VERY rewarding experience," said Skillman. "It makes us feel great to help other people," she said about herself and peers who participated in the program. Work Camp took Skillman and her friends to Orange County, Va., where they worked on fixing as many homes as they could get to. Skillman said she learned a lot of new skills, including how to build ramps on houses. As far as the Knights of Columbus award, or any other award, is concerned, she said she never expected to get anything back from her community service.
Aside from her experiences at Work Camp and extracurricular activities at South Lakes, Skillman spent 11 years in the Girl Scouts and participated in fund-raisers for the American Cancer Society and the Salvation Army.
"She has done this since grade school," said her mother, Kathy Skillman. She said the Girl Scouts deserved much recognition for the leadership qualities her daughter exhibits each day. "Girl Scouts gave her the avenues" to exhibit her leadership, said Kathy Skillman.
A member of the National Honor Society since 2004, Lauren Skillman always took care of her academics before tackling her many other activities. "She’d come home from school and the first thing she’d do is her homework," said Kathy Skillman about her daughter. "I haven’t had to worry about her through high school," she said. Kathy Skillman said she was proud that her daughter won the Outstanding Young Woman of the Year award. "She has really worked hard and deserves it," she said. "It is good to know she has in her, ideals that will guide her through her adult life," said Kathy Skillman.
A Reston resident for the last 11 years, Lauren Skillman has gone to Reston schools since enrolling in Sunrise Valley Elementary School in second grade. Since then, she has attended Langston Hughes Middle School and will soon graduate from South Lakes High School. Her academic journey will take her to the University of Florida at summer’s end. The Father Harris Findlay Council also awarded Lauren Skillman with a $1,000 scholarship in recognition of her service to the church and community. She said she is considering studying accounting or journalism at Florida.