McKenna Norton, this year’s “Be the Change Award” winner from Kennett High School, has found that what unifies all her many volunteer activities is her “commitment to human rights and belief in the dignity of all people.”

She traces the beginning of her concern for others to the three elementary school years she spent in Shanghai, China. There, she learned to appreciate other languages and cultures and also became aware of poverty and racism.

At Kennett High School, McKenna put her beliefs into practice. Drawing from her own experiences adjusting to a foreign culture and language, she worked as a volunteer aide in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Called to action by the recent rise in hate crimes, she founded the Kennett High School Human Rights Club, which raised money for organizations fighting anti-Asian, anti-Black, and antisemitic violence. She also found time to work with the school’s Diversity Council on making the school curriculum more diverse and inclusive. McKenna has also always been concerned about food insecurity and volunteered with the Kennett High School Humanitarian Club’s food drives to help the 10 percent of our neighbors who live below the poverty level. In her spare time, she likes good conversation with friends, studying languages, cross country running, and photography.

McKenna is headed to Cornell in the fall, where she plans to major in China and Asia-Pacific studies. Meanwhile, she is loving her summer job as a cook at Braeloch Brewing. Although she might be sleep deprived, she envisions her ideal future self as a human rights attorney by day and a chef by night.

We should all be inspired by the spirit of McKenna’s photography—that in the beauty of our world we see the hope of a vibrant and equitable future.

– Tammis Dowling