KATY MAGAZINE l DECEMBER 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
A nationally-recognized teenage humanitarian took service to a new level by creating a student-run community service academy. This month, Lauren Forney leads 25 students across Katy to collect scarves to help keep homeless people warm during the winter months.
Inspiring Others to Serve by Working Together
15-year old Lauren Forney inspires others to share her passion for community service. The Taylor High School sophomore actually founded her own student-run community service organization, working together to prove that anyone can make a difference in the world, especially students.
Inspired by Parents Humanitarianism
Lauren recalls when she was first inspired to help others. She was only four years old. She and her family were at their old church in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Young Lauren watched as members of the congregation handed out food and toiletries to homeless people.
"I went with my parents and when I saw my Dad handing out some donations to a homeless man I was just amazed," says Lauren. "I am an only child so I had the mentality that everything was about me. After I saw my parents serving I new that I wanted to do that."
Making Gifts for Senior Citizens
From that moment, Lauren wanted to serve others. She started making gifts to give to the elderly at the church - making candy, paper fans, flower pens and sun visors for their senior ministry summer trips.
“She was proud to hand out her gifts on Sundays and the senior members looked forward to her visiting with them each week,” says her mother, Lisa Forney. “She spends time back in Dallas every summer and she still to this day will take something to share with the senior members of the church and visit the sick and shut-in with her grandparents.”
When their family relocated to Katy in 2008, Lauren worked on a Teddy Bear Campaign. She collected bears and gave them to expecting mothers and sick children. When she needed more teddy bears, she gave away her own.
“Lauren gave away hundreds of teddy bears that were used to decorate her nursery when she was a baby,” says Lisa. “The last of the bears were donated to Katy ISD Police Department.”
“I love serving others,” says Lauren. “If I get what I want, why can’t everyone else?”
An After-school Service Club Led To Much More
When Lauren was a fourth grader at Katy’s Pattison Elementary, she participated in a service club where she read 26 books, ran 26 miles, and completed 26 deeds. She started collecting cans to donate before Thanksgiving.
“That year, Lauren and I walked the neighborhood putting flyers into mailboxes,” says Lisa. “She spoke to neighbors that were walking their dogs and outside with kids the first year.”
Through her hard work, Lauren collected 200 cans to take to Katy Christian Ministries.
"People learn from example, especially young people."
“I’m motivated by seeing other kids helping others," says Lauren. "I was talking to my mom when I was in 6th grade at McMeans. I asked her if we could have some kids over and do a service activity and talk about community service.”
Lauren and her parents invited some kids over. At that first meeting they had 17 students that ranged in ages from elementary to high school and various Katy ISD schools. Lady Lauren’s Community Service Academy was born.
“It was just an idea,” says Lauren. “I had no idea if it would work. People learn from example, especially young people.”
While at McMeans Junior High, Lauren won the Presidential Award for her Heart of Service and was recognized nationally as a “Child that Inspires” for her community service efforts.
A Strong Academy
Now in its fourth year, Lady Lauren’s Community Service Academy is still going strong. They start each year off with an informational meeting to introduce new members and plan projects. Their two big service projects are the annual Canned Food Drive and the Annual Warm Scarf Campaign. They also participate in pop-up projects, helped people affected by Harvey, and so much more.
Annual Warm Scarf Campaign
Currently, Lady Lauren's Community Service Academy is accepting new or gently used scarves to be donated to the Mamie George Community Center of Richmond. Lauren is accepting donations to her home in Nottingham. Visit her Academy's Facebook page for more information.
A Supportive Community, Graduates Prep Others For College
The group is also extremely supportive of each other. “We host a College Series each year where older members educate and assist younger students on how to get scholarships, internships, and college ready,” says Lauren. “We invited graduated students from the program back for a college student panel.”
Lauren Continues to Serve, Earns Recognitions
Lauren volunteers on a monthly basis with Jack and Jill incorporated, a national service organization developed to create leaders in the African American community through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.
Her passions haven’t changed since entering high school. Recently, she won three first-place awards at the South Central Regional Jack and Jill Teen Conference in Grapevine, Texas. She won the Teen Entrepreneurship award for her cake pop business, Cake My Day, that she launched with her mom in 2012.
She received another prize for Community Service for all her continuing efforts to serve, lead, and inspire young people. She also won the Humanitarian Award by creating a scrapbook that showcased her years of serving others from age 4 to now.
“I love serving people and my community.”
Taylor High School Presidential Award Winner
Lauren was recently presented the Presidential Award at Taylor HS for continuing to serve her community. President Trump acknowledged her for her bravery in serving and encouraging others to do the same.
Still a Teenager
And Lauren still has time to be a typical teenager. She plays basketball for the Taylor Mustangs.
“I started basketball in junior high and really liked being part of a something," says Lauren. "Now in high school it’s a lot more serious but we’re finding ways to serve there as well. Our coach has challenged each of us to commit to a service project. We’re also meeting as a team over Thanksgiving break to host a ‘friendsgiving.’ That I’m very excited about.”
What the Future Holds
Lauren plans to serve after high school and beyond.
"I want to be a pediatrician," says Lauren. "I'm a good multi-tasker, I love kids, and I love the medical field. It really put all what I like to do in one job."
Lady Lauren's Community Service Academy will go on after Lauren goes to college. She already has plans to train younger members to take over.
"This entire journey of service has taught me to be a leader," says Lauren. "I want to be known for a positive way."
"She makes both my husband and I proud," says Lisa. "We are working diligently to raise a child that will be a shining light in the world and that is concerned about others."
"No matter how old you are, you can help. You could have limitations, but you are never too young to serve," says Lauren. The youngest member of her academy is 4-years-old. "We made a whole organization with kids who serve, all of one small idea."