ELBURN – As the youngest child in a musical family, Katie Kenkel said she always has been inspired to sing.
Her days are filled with music, and three of her class periods at Kaneland High School involve choir, including those she directs and those in which she is a member.
But an opportunity to work with students in an adaptive physical education class revealed another passion. She had an opportunity to work with those with developmental disabilities, and Kenkel called that experience “absolutely amazing.”
“I expected that I would like it, but I just fell in love with those kids,” Kenkel said. “They would all be so excited to see everyone. They would melt my heart.”
The Kane County Chronicle this week is highlighting local high school seniors as graduation season nears. The Kaneland High School graduation is set for 10 a.m. June 1 at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center in DeKalb.
Kenkel is headed to Xavier University in Cincinnati, where she will study music, and she is well-trained to travel that path. She said she has been in choirs since sixth grade, and her mother, Christina, said she could tell that Katie had such talent since she was in preschool. Her mother said young Katie could be heard singing along to the music in the car.
She is the youngest of four children, and all have been involved in music, not surprising considering their parents met while they were involved in the group, Up With People.
Katie Kenkel has embraced opportunities at Kaneland.
She has been in two theatrical performances.
She has experience directing two choirs – a freshman treble choir in her first semester of her senior year, and a freshman/sophomore choir she currently directs. She joined the Kaneland Madrigals as a sophomore, something she said was an “amazing honor.” She has performed in all-state choir. Also, she sings with her mother at their church – St. John Neumann Church in St. Charles.
“I have known that I wanted to sing my whole life,” Katie Kenkel said.
“She has a gift,” Christina Kenkel said.
That she also found she has a skill for working with those with developmental disabilities is something that Katie could pursue someday. She helped coordinate activities, and has enjoyed getting to know those in the program. Christina Kenkel, a teacher at St. Charles North High School, said that could be an opportunity down the road.
Her parents were able to attend an event to see Katie at work in that environment at a Thanksgiving dinner.
“It was neat for me to see it firsthand. ... It was so evident that she had a really strong love for these kids and a sincere friendship,” Christina Kenkel said. “They’re part of her Kaneland family.”
But for now, Katie probably will have to focus on the music.
“Maybe she can have it all,” Christina Kenkel said. “But maybe just not at the same time.”