Nick Minnella displays the Samsung Galaxy Tablet he won last year at the Samsung Mobile App Academy. He relies on it to help with his fundraising efforts for Cross Countries. | Supplied photo by Joseph McCurdy
Updated: September 5, 2014 6:18AM
If everything goes as planned, at this time next summer Nick Minnella will be volunteering in Bolivia.
It’s been a dream of his to give back to a country in need. As president of Cross Countries, a volunteer group that started with a group of runners who wanted to give back, the senior-to-be at Oak Lawn Community High School is working to help the group raise $60,000, some of which will fund the trip to Bolivia and the rest of which will help fund a hospital there. So far, the group has raised $17,000, so Minnella has his work cut out for him.
The organization, which is now open to anyone interested in giving back, has been hosting fundraisers every couple of months since the spring. Motorists may have seen members of the group at major intersections throughout the summer asking for donations.
“We’ll also do bigger events like Bowling for Bolivia, which was a candlelight bowl we did,” Minnella said.
The group sponsors an annual volunteer trip to underserved countries, but so far, Minnella has stayed home. Now that he is instrumental in planning the trip, nothing could keep him away.
“I really want to give back to people who don’t have a lot of things in their lives. I know that living in Oak Lawn gives me a lot of privileges that they don’t have in their lives,” he said.
He keeps busy with other activities, too. Last summer, he attended the Samsung Mobile App Academy, a two-day event at the University of Illinois-Chicago. There, students got a chance to design their own apps alongside people who work at Samsung.
Minnella applied at the encouragement of his computer science teacher. He gained experience from the event and earned himself a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.
“It was interesting because it had a lot of people who were involved in the field of making apps for your phone. It was fun to have real-world, hands-on experience with it, so it solidified that I want to go into computer science for my career,” he said.
The app Minnella designed filled a need that he sees in his daily life with Cross Countries. He crafted the app for use by a volunteer organization to help increase public awareness and, subsequently, raise more money.
At school, Minnella, 17, is a member of STEM, the science, technology, engineering and math club. He is also on the ESRP team, which stands for Exemplary Student Research Program. It is a group of students who last year traveled to Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont to do an original, science-based research project. He is captain of the cross country team and is a top track athlete. His course load includes all honors and advanced-placement classes, and he is ranked in the top 20 of the class.
“All of my activities are rewarding in different ways,” Minnella said. “I guess I like Cross Countries because it is unique in that we give back to people. It is a bunch of students who raise money to help other people, which is really nice.”
Minnella, the son of Debra and Michael Minnella, said his dad is his mentor.
“He teaches me how to work hard and just persevere. He is just a good role model,” Minnella said. “As a result, I just want to do my best at everything. I’m never happy with doing anything less. No matter what it is — my clubs, school or sports, I do my best. Otherwise, why go?”