The total package
It's a safe bet that Amber Schraufnagel's bucket list isn't like most teenagers.
Schraufnagel had always wanted to go on a mission trip and serve the homeless. Two summers ago, before her sophomore year at Mayville (Wis.), Schraufnagel got an opportunity to cross that off her list in a city she desired to visit.
Schraufnagel, her mom, Raquel, and another mother-daughter duo journeyed to New York City. During a jam-packed four days, Schraufnagel worked on the Harlem Relief Bus, helped out at Love Kitchen, cooking and serving food, and volunteered at a food pantry and a bible school.
"It was an experience that definitely opened my eyes and made me very grateful for everything that I have been given," Schraufnagel said. "It also showed me that it doesn't matter what you have, it's really who you are and the fight that you have. Some of those people had absolutely nothing, but continued to give everything their all in life. It was very inspiring and made me feel special to be impacting their lives like that."
"She loves being busy.”
Mayville girls basketball coach Liz Cook has been working with Schraufnagel since she was in middle school and has always been impressed by her young athlete.
"She's just such a great person," Cook said. "I remember two years ago when she took a mission trip with her family out to New York and she could not wait to tell us all about it. After that, she tried to get into more opportunities to volunteer. She's willing to put herself out there for everybody else and sometimes put her needs behind her."
Schraufnagel's volunteer resume is impressive by itself, but add in her hard work and determination in the classroom as well as being a decorated three-sport athlete and she is the total package. That's a big reason she was chosen as the Semper Fidelis Female Athlete of the Year, presented by the Marines.
Andy Lan, a football and basketball player who attends Highland Park (N.J.) high school, was picked as the Semper Fidelis Male Athlete of the Year, presented by the Marines.
"It's a huge accomplishment to me because I've worked so hard all these years and to be able to be recognized like that and for everybody to know that I've worked that hard, it's amazing," Schraufnagel said.
Since her trip to New York, volunteering has become even bigger in Schraufnagel's life. She tries to fit it in whenever she can all the while jockeying academics and athletics. The senior-to-be at Mayville is a decorated student who has received straight-A's other than one A-, which haunts Schraufnagel, as a freshman. She's also a superb all-around athlete at her small southcentral Wisconsin school.
"She's just so busy with not like her athletics but her academics and leadership roles," Raquel Schraufnagel said. "She has stayed really active as far as in the school. She's been captain of her basketball team. She's been in Student Council, Interact club, we've done mission trips. She's always looking for somewhere to kind of, lack of a better term, get her nose into to just help out. She loves being busy."
Schraufnagel, 17, had a standout junior year at Mayville. As the No. 1 runner on the cross-country team, Schraufnagel just missed getting to state, being 12 seconds behind for the final qualifier at the sectional meet.
As the point guard on the basketball squad, Schraufnagel led her team in assists (2.1), was second in rebounds (6.2) and third in points (10.1). She usually does all the dirty work that typically doesn't show up in the game box score.
"I would say her and one of her teammates are our two defensive stoppers and I can ask her to guard a guard or I can say, ‘Hey, Amber, I need you to guard a post player,'" Cook said. "She never backs down and always takes on the challenge."
During the spring, Schraufnagel competes on the track and field team. She's mainly a sprinter – running in the 400 as well as the 4x400 and 4x800 relays – along with the triple jump.
Shortly after competing in the Battles Won Academy in Washington, D.C., in mid-July, Schraufnagel found out she was named the athlete of the year.
"She does not necessarily like the spotlight," said her mom, Raquel. "I said to her, ‘Wow. This is amazing that for you to stand out among all those kids.' She's like, ‘I just was myself, Mom. You know me.'"
Always humble, Schraufnagel believes taking home the national honor will pay dividends in the future.
"I think it pushes me to continue what I'm doing and it gives me a little more confidence, like, hey, I'm not doing this for no reason and I really am good," Schraufnagel said.
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL SMITH