For some teenagers, helping out in their community might mean picking up trash or donating cans to a local food pantry. However, Lauren Engelking of Holy Apostles Parish, New Berlin, and freshman at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha has had a far greater impact on her community.

POF-LAURENlighterLauren Engelking, a freshman at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha, and member of Holy Apostles Parish, New Berlin, holds a manikin used to teach fellow parishioners how to use automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). (Catholic Herald photo by Ricardo Torres)

Lauren, involved in Girl Scouts since first grade, recently completed the Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn. Its recipients demonstrate high levels of organization, determination and dedication to improving the community.

Lauren’s Girl Scout troop, Troop 2114, from Holy Apostles School, decided to pursue the Silver Award together. They worked with the Elizabeth Ministry at Holy Apostles, making homemade gifts and providing services in the nursery. Lauren, however, had bigger ambitions, and went solo with her project.


Name: Lauren Engelking

Age: 14

Parish: Holy Apostles Parish, New Berlin

Occupation: Student, Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha

Favorite hobbies: Playing basketball and baseball

Favorite church hymn: “Change Our Hearts,” by Rory Cooney

Favorite song: Anything by Bruno Mars

“We were part of the Elizabeth Ministry, so this was nothing new,” said Lauren’s mom, Paula Engelking. “And we wanted something a little more challenging.”

Lauren’s idea was to raise enough money to buy two AED (automatic external defibrillators) for Holy Apostles Parish. In addition, she trained all the teachers and ushers how to use them.

“My mom, technically, came up with the idea and I thought it was really cool,” said Lauren. “She really gets into heart stuff. So I was like, that sounds cool. And she’s an EMT, so I’ve kind of been around all of that stuff – it seemed easy but hard at the same time.”

Lauren began her project in July 2012 and finished in February of this year, recording more than 120 hours of service.

To start, Lauren and her mom, a clinical research coordinator at the Medical College of Wisconsin, connected with Project ADAM (Automated Defibrilators in Adam’s Memory), a Wisconsin-based organization dedicated to preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children and teens. Project ADAM was started in 1999 by David Ellis and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin along with Patty and Joe Lemel after their 17-year-old son Adam collapsed and died while playing basketball. 

Project ADAM provided an outline of steps to follow. With those in hand, Lauren talked to Fr. Don Thimm, pastor of Holy Apostles, and Rob Doucette, director of charity and justice ministry at the parish, about the project. 

After receiving their approval, Lauren went to the New Berlin Fire Department to learn how to use an AED and to get feedback on what she needed. She asked them to mentor her, and they showed her how to use an AED, helped her decide which model to buy for the school, and helped her figure out how many were needed and where they should go. 

“They were so helpful,” said Paula.

In order to raise money for her project, she wrote a letter to area and parish organizations, including the New Berlin Lions Club, the Prospect Lions Club, the Rotary Club of New Berlin, the Masons, the Home and School Association, and the Athletic Association, explaining what she was doing, She met with each organization personally to discuss her project and request donations.  

Lauren also applied for a grant and received $600 to use toward training and supplies, and several organizations donated money to Lauren’s project after talking to her and learning more about what she wanted to accomplish.

“They were so impressed with what she was doing,” said Paula. “She got enough money through donations to pay for everything.” 

With the grant and a few generous donations, Lauren purchased two AEDs for the school as well as 35 manikins and CPR training kits.

“We bought a lot of manikins so we can teach other people,” said Lauren. “We use CPR anytime kits. So it only takes 30-45 minutes to train.”

They trained the teachers, ushers, and lunch ladies. While Paula facilitates the CPR training, Lauren is always in charge of the AED part of the training.

“Lauren trains everyone,” said Paula. “Because, me being an EMT, I overthink using this simple, simple machine. So she does it, and everyone just watches her, amazed.”

Because of Lauren’s project, CPR training has also been incorporated into the physical education classes for seventh- and eighth-graders at Holy Apostles School.

“The new principal, Mrs. (Melissa) Trepte, is fabulous,” said Paula. “She supports us 300 percent. And Fr. Don supports us 300 percent, if not more. We went and talked to Mrs. Trepte and now it’s incorporated in the gym program. And some kids are just so interested in it; they’re like our future doctors.” 

Now that Lauren has graduated from Holy Apostles, eighth-grade teacher Jennifer Calvino and physical education teacher Julianne Lobitz have taken over her role training the students and staff on how to use the AEDs. All the teachers will be re-trained in CPR and on AED usage every year before school begins.

The most important aspect of the Silver Award project for Lauren was the sustainability factor. 

“It had to keep going after we were done with it,” she said.

Since every seventh- and eighth-grade student will graduate knowing CPR this year and every year thereafter, the effects of her project will last forever.

“It was a big day when those things went on the wall,” said Paula. “It was exciting when Fr. Don finally blessed them.”

For Lauren, the most enjoyable part of the project was teaching and training people how to use the AEDs. In fact, she loved the teaching part of the project so much that she is thinking she’d like to become a biology teacher.

“The medical part’s too scary,” said Lauren.  “But I really want to be a biology teacher, because I like knowing and learning about it, but I don’t like actually being it.”

Lauren’s public speaking skills improved significantly during her project since she had to talk to so many benefactors and give speeches at each of the parish’s Masses.  

“It was a little bit scary at first,” she said. “I do forensics at school, but you’re in a room with 10 people. Not like in church where there’s like 100 people. The first time I came back, my mom was like ‘What did you say?’ I got it down by the last Mass, though.”

Throughout the process, Lauren gained many skills and valuable experiences. 

“A big part was being able to handle a big project and having support but still making sure I’m the leader,” she said. “And being able to work with other people and share ideas was important.”