(Photo by Curt Knoke) Aurora Arce is serving as the Mohican Veterans Princess, but she is also the president of both her school’s Culture Club and the Gresham FFA, among a myriad of other things. The senior at Gresham Community School puts in a lot of hours for her school and community, which is why the Shawano Area Community Foundation named her its Youth Volunteer of the Year for 2019. is one of four Volunteer Award winners we’re featuring from the Shawano Area Community Foundation, our affiliate.
By Lee Pulaski, Shawano Leader
Anyone who has lived or visited the Gresham area has likely seen Aurora Arce around. She is constantly helping with fundraisers, blood drives and other activities at Gresham Community School. She helps her tribe with advice on the future of education. She has even been a representative for Mohican Veterans by serving as their princess.
Arce does all this and a lot more, even as she struggles with chronic health issues.
It is that giving spirit for which the Shawano Area Community Foundation has awarded Arce its 2019 Youth Volunteer Award, sponsored by the Shawano Optimist Club and Shawano Rotary.
Arce is president of both the Gresham FFA and the Gresham Community School Culture Club. For the former, Arce has organized community service events like blood drives, roadside cleanups, cookie deliveries, the making of tie blankets and more. For the latter, she has organized field trips for students to learn about other cultures and played a major role in the school’s annual powwow.
“FFA is something that I’ve always been involved in all through middle school and high school,” Arce said. “It’s just very important to me to educate the kids that FFA’s not just about farmers; it’s so much more than that. We can learn some many different skills from what it teaches us. A lot of what we do in the FFA is volunteer- and community-based.”
Arce also participates in the school’s math club and forensics team. She sits on the student council for Gresham and is a member of the National Honor Society.
When Arce isn’t focused on her own school work, she’s helping younger students to complete theirs, according to JoAnn Schedler, who recommended Arce for the volunteer award. “Every day after school she worked until five o’clock tutoring kids ages kindergarten to third grade,” Schedler wrote in her nomination letter. “It is something Aurora loved doing and will greatly miss.”
Arce’s desire to contribute cascades beyond the walls of her school. She sits on the education board for the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe. As the Mohican Veterans Princess, she attends the group’s monthly meetings, volunteers at the fundraisers and participates in parades and military funerals, according to Schedler. “She has gone above beyond her call of duty volunteering for her school and our veterans,” Schedler wrote.
Arce said she enjoys what she does, both in her own actions and in coordinating the actions of others. It takes a lot of planning and coordinating for the high school senior to fit in all the activities. “It’s hard, but a lot of it I do during the day, so I have to make my time useful,” Arce said. “Usually, I’m able to get it done in a timely manner and still get all my schoolwork done.”
Arce noted her position as student representative on the Stockbridge-Munsee education board came about because the tribe approached the school and inquired if any of its students would be interested in serving. “I decided that was something I wanted to do, and I’ve been serving ever since,” Arce said. “I’m advocating for the students’ needs and the school — what the Native American programs are doing well now and what can be improved on.”
Arce was diagnosed with three auto-immune diseases at the age of 15 months. She declined to elaborate on which specific diseases she battles with, but she noted that she doesn’t let them get the better of her when it comes to helping her community.
“For a lot of my life, I’ve been in and out of hospitals and doing checkups,” Arce said. “It has become a challenge, but I choose to not let it define me and just overcome the challenges that come with it.”
Arce perseveres for her community and school, she said, because they’ve had her back whenever she’s needed a helping hand. “They’ve encouraged me to do things that I didn’t even think was possible, so just giving back to them is a little piece of what they’ve given to me throughout my life,” Arce said.
The SACF award comes with a $1,000 prize to be donated to a nonprofit organization. Arce plans to contribute her prize to the Mohican Veterans. “They have been great in supporting me in everything I do,” Arce said. “I love going to powwows with them and representing because they’re truly great people.”
Arce will be graduating this month, and she has planned to attend the University of Wisconsin and pursue a career as a doctor. Arce got a big boost toward her goals in April when she received a $10,000 scholarship from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.
Having the auto-immune diseases drew her interest in medicine. “I want to be able to help people throughout my life,” Arce said.
Our affiliate, the Shawano Area Community Foundation, in conjunction with The Shawano Leader, has staged a Celebration of Giving Volunteer of the Year promotion for the last 10 years. Each year select area volunteers are presented $1,000 cash grants for their efforts to improve the quality of life in the Wolf River Region. The awards, sponsored by area businesses, are then reinvested back into area nonprofit organizations at the direction of the award winners. This is the second in a series profiling outstanding volunteers in the community.