Central grad dedicated to helping others, working hard

2013-05-24T00:10:00Z 2013-05-25T08:14:05Z Central grad dedicated to helping others, working hardBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

When asked what makes graduating Billings Central Catholic High senior Nathan McDonald stand out, Principal Shel Hanser found it difficult to pinpoint any single thing.

But that, in and of itself, is probably what makes him stand out more than anything else.

"This is a great graduating class, and he just falls into that great-kid category," Hanser said. "He's involved in so many things that it's tough to say, 'Here's this one thing.'"

McDonald, 18, attended Billings Catholic Schools since first grade and graduates Sunday. Over the years and especially in high school, he's been a part of numerous activities, both through the school and in the community.

An avid skier, he spent years in the Central ski club, running it with fellow student Guy Keenum this year, organizing a school trip for more than 50 students to Jackson Hole, Wyo.

McDonald will attend Westminster College in Salt Lake City after graduation, where he plans to study business. So showing up at school early every morning to help run a school breakfast store for his advanced business class was a no-brainer.

"It's something I wanted to do, so it wasn't really a chore," he said.

He also participated in band for three years.

On the field, he was a four-year letterman in wrestling and a three-year letterman in soccer. While he never brought home a first-place medal — he placed fifth twice at the state wrestling tournament and last year's soccer team finished runner-up — McDonald did earn a soccer scholarship to Westminster.

Away from school, he's volunteered for the ski program at Red Lodge Mountain Resort run by Eagle Mount, which provides recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Through that program, he's acted as an instructor, working with people on the slopes. He estimated that he's taught about 20 instructional sessions over the last two ski seasons.

"Really, just helping is a huge part of who I am and who I want to be," McDonald said. "I started with a friend and then I got two more friends to volunteer. Hopefully, it's something that grows."

Hanser said that over the years, McDonald has been a student who impressed him with his effort and his energy.

"He's always worked his tail off," he said. "He's always been a hard worker."

McDonald agreed in some sense, saying he doesn't like to stay idle and prefers to be active and engaged.

"It keeps my mind off things and it lets me clear my head," he said. "Put it this way: I'd rather be busy than be bored."

As a graduating senior, he said he loved his time at Central and looks forward to passing that enthusiasm along to his younger sister, who is a freshman there.

"Work hard," he said. "It's not always the easiest but it's going to prepare you for what's ahead. But, remember, it's not always about the studying or the education. It's about the lessons learned along the way."

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