Morgan McGurk’s passion for making a positive impact in the lives of her fellow teens was inspired by tragedy.
A sophomore at Lee’s Summit North, Morgan’s commitment began after the suicides of two students at her school last year.
“Suicide prevention is a cause that means a lot to me,” said Morgan, 15. “It affects everyone, but especially kids my age. It’s devastating to know that these students felt so alone and maybe someone could have helped. To see the effects of that was really overwhelming.”
Earlier this year, Morgan was recognized at the 16th annual Lee’s Summit Mayor’s Character Breakfast. During the annual event hosted by Lee’s Summit CARES, 11 Lee’s Summit citizens were awarded for exceptional demonstration of a specific character quality through their service to family and community. McGurk received the award for responsibility.
During the past year, Morgan has shown herself worthy of the award. She’s dedicated her voice, art and leadership abilities to the cause of suicide prevention.
Last April, she took the first step and organized a suicide prevention walk with a group of fellow students. In addition to raising hundreds of dollars, walk participants increased awareness within the school and greater community.
Her mission continued through the summer.
In August, Morgan chose to celebrate her 15th birthday by hosting an art-focused fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. An avid painter, Morgan created 40 paintings for the event. At her birthday open house, all of the paintings sold in under 30 minutes.
In addition to selling her art, Morgan also established a link on the AFSP website for those who wanted to donate, but couldn’t purchase a canvas in person. In total, she raised $1,500 as her birthday gift to help prevent suicide.
Sara McGurk, Morgan’s mother, says service to others has always been a family value, yet her daughter’s vision for this cause was motivated from within.
“We’re really proud of Morgan’s efforts, since it was all self-driven,” Sara Morgan said. “To see your daughter understand and implement servant leadership is exciting.”
Morgan is the student council sophomore class representative, selected by fellow class members.
Mindy Haesemeyer, North’s Student Council adviser, has worked closely with Morgan this year on the group’s student-focused initiatives.
“I admire Morgan’s kindness and compassion for others,” Haesemeyer said. “She truly cares for her peers, and advocates for all students to feel welcome in our building and community.”
As lead sophomore representative, Morgan is involved in all of the council’s activities, including the You Be You campaign. Developed by Bernstein-Rein Advertising in collaboration with the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition and Jewish Family Services, You Be You is a teen mental health campaign created in response to rising suicide rates among young people.
Implemented in schools and student-led, the campaign seeks to spread a message of self-acceptance.
“ You Be You allows students to be themselves and feel loved by others,” Morgan said.
Morgan says that her focus on the cause of suicide prevention has evolved over the past year and has become a lifetime commitment. Looking to the future, she hopes to study social work, with an eye on helping children and teenagers.
Morgan also has ideas about what can be done today.
“We need to be free to talk about mental health and remove the stigmas about mental health issues, so people won’t feel embarrassed.” she said.
“We can be more accepting of each other for our differences, really come together, be kind and not judge each other.”