Laurel Springs student creates a nonprofit where cakes and compassion meet
Art and philanthropy have surrounded Michaela Sewall (LSS ‘21) her entire life. At six, she watched her mother, an artist, create works of art for nonprofit fundraisers.
Inspired by her mother, Michaela celebrated her next birthday by asking for donations to shelters that aided women and children, instead of asking for gifts for herself. But Michaela also found her own artistic expression in these moments. Michaela began baking.
At 12, she started making her own birthday cakes. But her passion didn’t just serve herself. Michaela also began using her artistic baking skills to give back to others.
In 2017, she founded her own nonprofit, Cakes for Kids. Her organization worked with ACT | Abuse Counseling and Treatment and OASIS Youth Shelter to bake, deliver, and donate 300 cakes for kids within these shelters to celebrate birthdays.
“I wanted to find a way to combine my love to bake and contribute to the shelters in a productive manner,” she said.
Recently she was recognized with a national merit award by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) and InnerView in the fourth Annual National Community Service Awards. The organization recognizes students who are actively working towards eliminating hunger and creating a more sustainable future.
Exploring Interests through Laurel Springs
Michaela is not just an accomplished baker and humanitarian; however, she is also a highly skilled ice skater.
She joined Laurel Springs during her ninth-grade year after leaving her Florida home to further train in Michigan. Her busy skating schedule meant Michaela needed more flexibility with her daily school work. Through Laurel Springs, Michaelafur could continue to train 10 hours a day, five days a week. Her flexible schedule allowed her to travel and compete throughout the United States, Turkey, Croatia, and Israel.
“You can pursue what you love to do and not sacrifice your education,” Michaela said.
And while Michaela has many diverse interests, education has always remained her top priority. “I love learning, and at LSS, you learn as much as you want,” she said.
Most importantly, teachers are there to support and direct you.
One of the biggest supporters at Laurel Springs for Michaela was Dasha Bindler, her Academy Counselor. It is a connection the two have maintained beyond academics.
“I always try to build strong relationships with all my Academy students,” Dasha said.
The two met and talked often as Michaela continued through The Academy. Dasha monitored Michaela’s academic progress and helped her with college applications and essays. They shared conversations about Michaela’s ice skating and baking passions, and future plans.
A New Chapter
Michaela knew she couldn’t continue Cakes for Kids when she transitioned into college in the fall of 2021. However, she didn’t want to disappoint the children who have been receiving monthly cakes for their birthdays. So, she found an NHS Chapter at a Florida high school to continue her volunteer efforts.
“I was so excited it would have a life beyond me,” she said of her efforts to bring a bit of light to more children and youth.
This transition was a weight off her shoulders. She will soon start college at Washington University – St. Louis, majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in neurobiology within a pre-med track.
“I’m passionate about neuro-engineering and learning more in-depth how the brain works,” she said. She is also passionate about medicine, engineering, and space.
Michaela wasn’t sure at first how her passions would tie together, but this past summer she began researching. She first started researching individuals she admired in each field. Then, she reached out about internships in various fields.
As a result, she landed a remote internship with NASA, where she conducted psychophysiological research for autonomous aviation, which would allow aircraft to fly without a pilot. Research excites Michaela—the skater who calculated the physics of her ice skating lifts as she trained.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she retired from ice skating as she saw it was time for her to take the next step in her journey.
Michaela now runs seven to nine miles a day to fill the training void. She is also thankful her identity never hinged on one interest or talent but included multiple aspects, including visual art, baking, skating, volunteering, and researching.
She credits Laurel Springs with giving her the time to pursue her diverse interests and supporting her all the way to college.
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