All paths lead to excellence

Written by Debbie Hall

Photos by Amy O’Brien

At age 16, McKenna Gatski not only participates in but excels in all areas of her life including her education, volunteer work, athletics and theater.

Currently attending The Meadows School, Gatski is excelling in academics and is a varsity athlete. She participates in the varsity tennis and track teams and was a junior varsity freshman and varsity sophomore cheerleader.

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Gatski’s close friend and classmate was diagnosed with cancer. His passing three months after his diagnosis was a life-changing moment for Gatski. As a freshman, the teenager had participated in the Relay for Life, an overnight relay event raising money to fight cancer and spread awareness. In his honor, she stepped up her efforts and Gatski serves as the youth involvement chair, dedicating her time to speaking to other high school students and encouraging participation.

“When a younger person like me speaks to kids, rather than an adult, it is easier to get them involved,” Gatski said. Since she began as the youth involvement chair, the organization has seen an increase in teen volunteers.

Her father, Frank Gatski, CEO of Gatski Commercial Real Estate Services, said he remembered when McKenna was a child that she always wanted to be involved in the family’s volunteerism including tagging along with her brother’s Boy Scout troop to feed the homeless in an area kitchen.

Now that she’s able to drive herself, she still volunteers regularly at homeless shelters, and encourages her friends to join her. She also participates in biannual fundraisers through The Meadows School benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation. Another passion for McKenna Gatski includes Paws for Change and volunteering at area animal shelters.

McKenna Gatski plays piano, takes voice lessons and participated in the University Children’s Chorale through UNLV and performed with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, traveling to New York, England and Hawaii. During those six years, she sung throughout many different communities and appeared on the “Today” show.

She also supports New Vista Community, where her uncle resides. Over the holiday season, McKenna Gatski taught the residents in her uncle’s group home to sing Christmas carols, which they showcased by singing at Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest.

According to McKenna Gatski, theater is her true escape. She attended Shakespeare Camp through Southern Utah University and has been in every play The Meadows School has produced since she was in sixth grade, varying between acting roles and stage managing. She’s been involved in a variety of regional and state thespian competitions and productions.

“I’m an actress, but I love the leadership role of stage managing,” she said. “I’m really interested in the sound and lighting. And I love using power tools and building sets. When I am in the theater, I am the happiest.”

Right now, McKenna Gatski is investing energy in preparing for her SATs. Her dream is to attend University of Southern California and pursue a business degree. She plans to one day own her own business and hopes to attend an entrepreneurship program at USC next summer.  McKenna Gatski is looking to her father to mentor her about business as well.

“McKenna has her own inner strength and will and I am very proud of her accomplishments so far, and I believe she is going to succeed. She has strong leadership qualities yet very humble in her own way,” said Frank Gatski.

As for managing such a busy schedule, McKenna said, “I have a color-coded calendar and plan every minute of every day. Time management is key. The last thing I want to do is give half my effort to something.” Spoken like a true Future Fearless Female.