Exceptional Youth in the Community: Meet Cate Hettinger
BY AMY HILL
At 16 years old, Mount Tabor High School student Cate Hettinger has earned nothing but A’s throughout her high school career, maintaining an impressive GPA of 4.35. In addition to a stellar academic record, Cate spends her free time at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Downtown Winston-Salem, where she takes classes for painting, drawing, mixed media, ceramics, glass, jewelry, photography, film, and creative software classes. At home, Cate enjoys relaxing from her school and art-filled schedule by baking.
When Cate was growing up, her parents valued volunteer work and instilled in her the importance of giving back through acts of service. All throughout Cate’s childhood, she has participated in various volunteer opportunities such as fundraisers, serving as a teacher’s assistant, and embarking on mission trips. Cate has held a leadership position in Centenary United Methodist Church’s youth led organization, Love Thy Neighbor, for three out of the five years she has been involved with the group. In February, Cate assisted in organizing Love Thy Neighbor’s annual fashion show fundraiser, which helps fund the group and keeps youth active in the community.
While Cate has performed volunteer work with a giving heart, she acknowledges that many of the volunteer opportunities that she has participated in have not been presented to her or her peers in the same way. Cate asserts that volunteering is often presented to her generation as a requirement with an incentive, or even a punishment, which concerns her. Cate explains, “There have been many times when I have struggled with a certain volunteer job because I was only doing it to check it off of a list. When I face volunteering as a requirement, I never feel as though my heart is truly in the work that I am doing.”
In middle school, Cate stopped tracking her volunteer hours and refused to turn in any paperwork for her volunteer jobs to combat the guilt she experienced while volunteering as a requirement. Although her teachers were not pleased, Cate would know that the work she was doing for others was from a genuine desire to help.
Ideally, Cate hopes to see school systems eventually transition from presenting volunteer work as required “service hours” or nice additions to college and job applications, to volunteer work that is truly altruistic in nature. Although she believes that her peers intrinsically possess the desire to help others and their community, she fears that continuing to incentivize or require volunteer work will diminish the desire to help others in generations to come.
One of Cate’s most touching experiences involved spending several days performing manual labor in the hot sun in Puerto Rico while painting and doing handiwork in a lonely elderly woman’s home. Although Cate only had an 8th grade Spanish education at that time, she tried her best to communicate with the woman by using her limited vocabulary. Although Cate was unable to understand the woman’s responses, Cate smiled and nodded her way through the conversation. Unaware of the impact her friendliness had on the woman at the time, Cate was surprised when the elderly woman embraced her as if she were Cate’s grandmother at the end of the mission trip. Cate realized that the manual labor she performed paled in comparison to the human connection she was able to provide for the woman.
Although Cate is currently focused on volunteering, schoolwork, and her extensive list of arts-based extracurricular activities, she hopes to one day find a career that feels less like work and more like a lifestyle or creative outlet. When she’s not helping others or sharpening her skills, Cate loves watching Parks and Rec or eating at Yamas and Mission Pizza downtown. She hopes to travel to many countries in the future, with Greece and Indonesia at the top of her bucket list.
Learn more about Love Thy Neighbor at centenary-ws.org/youth-ministry. Keep up with the latest news and updates from Love Thy Neighbor on Instagram at @centenary.ltn.