After her school closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jillian Manternach decided to use the extra time on her hands to make an impact.
The Dubuque Senior High School student started volunteering with The Farmlink Project, a nonprofit started by college students that helps connect farmers’ surplus produce with food banks. She has now been on the group’s fundraising team for about a year.
“It’s just so cool to see people as close to my age notice a problem and actually take action and find ways to fix it in such a large way,” Jillian said.
In addition to her work with The Farmlink Project, Jillian offers her time at her school and in her community through involvement in different service-oriented groups at Senior. It’s part of what she considers her duty to help other people.
“I’m very fortunate,” she said. “I have many things that other people unfortunately do not have, so I think since I have all this time and I have the capability to help people, it’s just something that I believe is a good thing to do.”
At Senior, Jillian serves as student council treasurer and helps plan activities for her school. She also is secretary of the Key Club and president of her school’s National Honor Society.
This year, as part of her NHS duties, she is helping organize her school’s Dance Marathon to raise money for University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Over her years in Key Club, she has helped with efforts such as serving meals at the Dubuque Rescue Mission and picking up trash. While the pandemic has complicated some aspects of volunteering, she and her fellow students have been writing cards to people in nursing homes and collecting items for goodie bags for cancer patients.
For the past year, Jillian’s volunteer efforts have included her work with The Farmlink Project, which has seen her reaching out to potential donors and farmers who can contribute food to food banks.
“We reach out to farmers who have surplus produce and then use the money to pay truck drivers who may not have had jobs due to COVID-19 to deliver that extra produce to food banks in need,” she said.
Dain Leytem, a government teacher and student council adviser at Senior, said that in her role on the school’s student council, Jillian pushes the students she works with to be better, work as a team and be goal-oriented and detail-focused.
He believes her legacy will be her ability to empower others and create more leaders through her positive attitude and commitment to giving her best.
“I think all those involvements just demonstrate her concern for other people and her drive to seek to improve the lives of others around her,” Leytem said.